Sunday, November 29, 2009

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!

Now that Thanksgiving is over it's time to start decorating for Christmas. Mom took most of the Thanksgiving stuff down yesterday but only put a new wreath over the fireplace. Dad started hanging lights outside because it was 53 degrees but he was working against the clock and lost. Darkness started to fall and he came inside, one evergreen and one bush lit with lights.

I'm hoping Mom puts the Christmas tree up today because I like to hang out under it. I walk under it checking for my presents and resting on the pretty tree skirt. I make sure all the lights are working and alert Mom if any ornaments come loose and tumble to the floor. I am on high alert during the holidays working day and night to make sure everything is picture perfect.

In the past, Mom and Dad have traveled to a tree farm to cut down a tree. They loved riding in the wagon, looking up and down each row until deciding they were ready to jump off the wagon to for a closer inspection. Up and down each row, measuring, calculating, imagining. They had it down to a science and always came home with a great tree. I loved the smell of our real trees. Nothing really compares to it.

A few years ago we purchased an artifical tree. Though it looks pretty, it is a bit too perfect. All its branches are symmetrical, the greenness of each limb a bit too green. The tree is easy to put up as Mom pulls each piece out of the box. When we are ready to say goodbye to the holidays, the box appears and once again the tree is taken apart, branch by branch, to sleep in its box until the time is right for it to come out next year.

I struggle with the different trees, real and artifical, that we've had in the past. I've been wondering which tree really is the best for the environment or if putting up a tree is really not that eco-friendly at all.

Most people have artifical trees because they are convenient. They look perfect, instilling in our minds the idea of the holiday we all desire. And of course the are eco-friendly because they can be reused year after year. But are they really the best choice if you care about the planet?

The biggest downside to artifical trees is that they are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), the third most widely used plastic produced. The production of PVC creates and releases dioxin, which is one of the most toxic chemicals known to man. Dioxin contaminates the environment and puts the people who work with it at risks for many diseases. As if the chemical content of the trees weren't bad enough, ask yourself what happens to these trees when people no longer want them. PVC is difficult to recycle because burning it releases toxins into the air, so most trees end up in landfills. Hmmm. If burning them is bad, what happens when they break down in landfills? You guessed it - all the toxins get leached into the soil and water supply. Oh and don't forget that most artifical trees are manufactured in China so the carbon footprint is really high.

So if artifical trees have such a high carbon footprint should you purchase a real tree? There are many benefits to real trees, primarily that most are grown on local farms and all can be recycled. You help the local economy buy purchasing a real tree and whether you go to a tree farm or just down to a temporary stand on the corner, the smell of a real tree really sets the mood for the holidays all season long.

Of course a real tree requires lots of maintenance, and if you buy one every year the cost compared to a one time purchase of an artifical tree is substantial. There's also the mess to consider as pine needles can and do fall off, so if you don't like to vacuum or sweep, a real tree is not for you. In addition to the added fire hazard of a real tree, farmers who grow real trees likely apply chemicals to the trees during their growth. These chemicals pollute the environment just like the chemicals used to grow food.

Have I confused you? I've confused myself! Experts agree that the best case scenario is to purchase an organic tree from a local tree farmer. Right. Unfortunately, this is not a viable solution for most people, so how can you do the right thing?

The most important thing to consider when deciding on a Christmas tree is your overall environmental impact. If you have to drive far to cut down or purchase a real tree, your carbon footprint is increasing and possibly negating the eco-friendliness of your tree. And if you aren't going to recycle your real tree then don't even buy one. We definitely don't need another tree in our landfills.

If you purchase an artifical tree, consider doing some research into where it was manufactured. Believe it or not there are still U.S. companies making artifical trees. Though they may be few and far between, they are out there and worth looking into. Buying products made in the good old U.S.A. feels good and helps our economy.

No matter what type of tree you decide to put up, please make a conscious decision when doing so. A real tree must be maintained and then recycled. An artifical tree will last you a lifetime but if you decide that you no longer want it, please donate it. There are always people who don't have their own tree who would love to decorate your hand-me-down tree. No matter what you decide I only ask that you do the right thing.

Mom is still on the fence about our tree. I told her to put up our artifical tree today because it is raining outside and we have to stay inside anyway. She told me that she would really love a real tree this year so I found an organic tree farm not too far from home where she can cut one down. The problem? Mom and Dad are going on vacation next weekend and that is the only time the tree farm is open. I give up Mom! You decide. Just let me know when it's up so I can start wrapping presents.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I'm So Thankful!

Gobble, gobble everypug! I love Thanksgiving because my favorite thing to do is eat. I plan on eating from dawn til dusk. You can find me tomorrow in bed recovering and just a little bit heavier than I was yesterday. That's what the holidays are all about, right?

I have so much to be thankful for this year. I am so lucky to have such great parents that take care me no matter what. I admit that I'm a little spoiled and that some times I'm a pain in the butt, but Mom and Dad wouldn't trade me for anything in the world. And for that I'm am most thankful.

I'm thankful Dad's health scare was quickly resolved and that he's on the road to recovery. Things could have been much worse and I'm making sure he sticks to his lifestyle program so that I will have him around for a very long time. He's my best bud and he loves me unconditionally.


I'm thankful Mom is mom. She may be a little strange to some people, but she's really the best. She's definitely a one of a kind and that's why I love her. She does everything for me and really helps me with my blog. I don't know what I would do without her because she loves me like no one else does. I'm her baby, her only child, and I couldn't ask for more.

I'm thankful more people are switching to a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Recycling and composting figures are up this year and that makes me smile. More and more people are realizing the impact (positive and negative) of their actions and making changes to do more with less. We still have a long way to go, but I'm hopeful for the future.

Even though I started my blog last year, it wasn't until this year that I visited some blogs, said hi, and introduced myself. Just let me say that my life hasn't been the same since. I've made so many great friends through blogging and everyone has welcomed me with open paws. I've laughed with you, cried with you, and celebrated with you this year, and I'm forever grateful for these experiences. I couldn't have asked for a better group of friends and on this Thanksgiving I give thanks to you for being you.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wednesday Wag Out!

Eco-Friendly Ribbon

The gift giving season is upon us and as we think about how to put the finishing touch on all those presents, please think responsibly.

Did you know that 95% of ribbon produced in the U.S. is made with petroleum products? This is not good because petroleum is not a renewable resource and we need to is sparingly. So what can you do when you still want to use ribbon but you want to do the right thing?

Cream City Ribbon is the answer! Cream City makes ribbon from cotton that is responsibly grown and dyed in the U.S. It is all natural and compostable. And it's really pretty too. Get creative this year and stop by http://www.boxesbagslabelsandtags.com/ to get all the natural ribbon you will need.

Bird Cards

Mom loves birds and when I showed her these bird cards she went crazy. She plans to buying and sending them as birthday cards in the hopes of getting people interested in birds.

What is so special about these cards? They are greeting cards that play sounds - bird sounds or calls to be exact. The collection of fourteen North American and twelve British birds feature the artwork by Maurice Bebb and the bird sounds are from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The inside of the card contains statistics and interesting information about the bird. What a great tool to teach people about birds.

Of course these cards are eco friendly as well as great looking. They are printed on card stock from sustainable forests and the batteries are mercury free. As if that weren't enough, a percentage of the profits from the sale of the cards are used to fund research and conservation programs at Cornell. They do lots of research there and they need all the help they can get.

Fly on over to http://www.sapsuckerwoods.com/ to pick up the perfect anytime card for everyone in your life. Even if you don't know any bird lovers who would appreciate these cards, the educational value makes them worth sending to would be birders.

Upcycled Salt & Pepper Shakers

Mom loves it when I find cool upcycled products that use common products found all around the house. This product not only looks cool but it would make a perfect gift.

These salt and pepper shakers are made from wood, but can you guess exactly what they were before they were shakers? They were furniture legs! The pepper shaker is made from reclaimed walnut wood and the salt shaker is made from reclaimed poplar wood. The beautiful white finish on the salt shaker comes from milk paint so it's very eco friendly. Both shakers have a natural cork stopper and come in a recycled paper gift box.

This is the perfect gift for the person who has everything or for the person who just wants a great upcycled product. Head on over to http://www.bambeco.com/ to get your shake on.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Book That Changed The World

It is the 150th anniversary of the most important written in modern times. This book not only changed the world, it continues to stir up controversy in discussions and schools throughout the world.

This book should be on everyone's reading list. "On the Origin of Species" tried to solve the many questions of that mystery of mysteries - where do species originate from - and put into context what Darwin saw and experienced on his travels around the world.

Though Darwin returned home from his voyage in 1837, it took him over 20 years to document his findings, amid the demons that he silently fought. He knew this piece of work would literally push people over the edge, stirring up emotions about life and religion that did not mesh with his. He sought the truth about evolutionary biology despite his feelings for his religion, yet he very troubled with the idea that people would turn away from or even disown him for this very personal book.

The book introduced the theory that populations evolved over the course of generations through a process of natural selection. What does this mean? Mom explained it to me by looking at a population of birds.

There is variations in traits. Some birds are black, some green, etc. Not all birds can reproduce to their fullest potential because the environment cannot support unlimited growth. So let's say the black birds get eaten by cats and they tend to reproduce less often than green birds. The green birds have green bird babies because this is a genetic trait. It is a more advantageous trait to be green, which allows the birds to have more babies thereby becoming more common in the population. If this continues, all birds will be green. Pretty genius, huh?

Darwin also documented that the diversity of life arose by common descent through a branching pattern of evolution. This is where a lot of the controversy lies. Evolution itself is pretty controversial but the idea that everything came from a common descendant just blew people away. Mom used to talk about this a lot at the zoo because people still think humans came from apes. If that were the case, that humans evolved from apes, then apes would have been extinct when humans arose. That is not the case. Humans did not replace apes through evolution, they branched off from apes. They share a common ancestor and this is what disturbs people. Why it does I'm not sure. The ape branch kept on growing and the human branch took a different direction. That is why there are apes and humans, all primates, living today.

When "On the Origin of Species" was published, biologists quickly accepted the idea of evolution, but for many years rejected natural selection. Natural selection was the mechanism by which Darwin proposed the evolutionary process and to him they went hand in hand. The most famous evidence of natural selection were the beaks of the finches Darwin saw on the Galapagos Islands. The beak of each species is suited to its preferred food and this suggests that beak shapes evolved by natural selection. Each island is different, hence different foods are available on different islands. In order to adapt to a specific island, a finch would have a trait or traits best suited to survive and reproduce. Seed eaters need beaks large enough to break open seeds. Insect eaters don't need beaks like seed eaters since they are not breaking open insects. Some birds ate big seeds and some small, so the size of the seed determined the size of the beak. Controversial? I think not!

When Mom arrived in the Galapagos, she thought she had died and gone to heaven. Darwin had walked these same beaches, hiked over these same crags, and stumbled over the same lava fields over 170 years ago. He had seen the same birds that Mom was staring at in amazement at and it was these finches (and other species) that eventually told the story of evolution ith natural selection.

I am a direct descendant of the gray wolf. In fact, all dogs are just domesticated wolves. Hmmm. I'm domesticated? I mean, of course I am. The gray wolf still exists today, so the modern dog (me) branched out from this evolutionary tree. Darwin didn't get this one right though. He thought the diversity of dogs reflected interbreeding with several types of wild dogs. Nope. We are one species with many different breeds.

The world would be a much different place without Darwin, his research, and his writings. I'm not sure what the world would be like or what we would be saying about where we came from and how, but I'm glad that Darwin took his trip around the world. I would like to take a trip around the world and see things that no pug has ever seen. I don't want to do research or write papers though. I just want to chill out, visit with other puggies, and eat lots of great food. I suspect Darwin might have done some of these things on his trip and that this helped him do the other things he needed to do.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

GoodGuide Scanner

Mom has some serious issues. I couldn't possibly list all of them in this one post but the one that was bothering me today is her latest obsession with the GoodGuide iPhone App scanner. What is the world coming to?

Mom uses the GoodGuide app a lot when she is out shopping or just at home researching products. The app has health, environmental, and social ratings for over 62,000 food, toys, personal care & household products. This information is great to have on hand before purchasing products you use all the time. It's important to select and use products that are not harmful, either to you or to the environment. I thought this app was a great idea until today. Today I made the mistake of telling Mom that the app now has a barcode scanner. Big, big mistake. Instead of having a relaxing day watching football, I have been dodging the scanner.

After Mom updated her GoodGuide app, she decided to start scanning items from the pantry.

This light brown sugar box has a flat barcode so Mom thought it would be easy to scan. It was easy to scan, but the app did not find it. Translation - it is not in their database. This does not mean that this product isn't green, but that just hasn't made it's way into the Guide yet.

I told Mom to scan my treats next. She grabbed this delicious bag of Merrick lamb treats. My pal Joey bought these for me and they are delicious! If you haven't tried these, I suggest you put them on your Christmas list. These would make a great stocking stuffer - hint, hint.

Oh, by the way, the app did not find the lamb treats. What kind of app is this Mom? These treats must be good for me and for the environment, right? Right.

Remember these treats that I got when I was on vacation in June? Surprised that I still have them? Or surprised that the app did not find it? These treats are very delicious too but I hardly ever get any because, well, I don't know why. Hey woman, keep that box of treats out. I'm hungry and they're going to go bad before I can eat them.

Believe it or not, those two treats are the only ones I have in the pantry. That's right. I am practically treatless so Mom had to find other products to scan. She was so sure that the app would find these 'green' napkins because they are made from 80% post-consumer content. Nope. The app did not find it. What is the app thinking? These napkins are about as green as you can get if you are going to use disposable napkins. We've had these for months and it's hard to see but we've hardly used any because we use cloth napkins. These are just for parties.

As Mom was searching the pantry for products to scan, I was busy helping Dad make chili. When Mom pulled this stuff out I told her that there was no way I was going to let her put it in the chili. Stay away from our chili! She told me to relax and scanned the agave nectar. She bought this bottle at Whole Foods so the app had to find it, right? Wrong. What is going on?

Everything Amy's makes is pretty 'green' and healthy so surely the app would find this soup. Ding, ding, ding - we have a winner! The app found it and gave it an overall rating of 6.8. That's not bad. The higher the score the better the product. It scored 7.6 in the health category, 6.5 in the environment category, and 6.2 in the society category. The only downside to the soup is that it is high in sodium which is common in most canned soups. The price of convenience is negated by the price to your blood pressure. You can't have it all, Mom.

Mom was so happy that something that app found something in our house. I thought once she successfully tested the app she would go back to doing whatever it was she doing before she started scanning. The chili was almost done and I was getting ready to eat when all of a sudden I heard her call my name.

Can you tell that I was sleeping? I left the kitchen to take a quick nap before dinner and was rudely interrupted by this psycho lady holding a scanner.

You want to do what? To me? I'm not a product. The app won't find me, trust me. Go scan products in the medicine cabinet.

Have you lost your mind woman? Who do you think you're messing with? Not only did you wake me up from my nap but I'm hungry and you know how I get when I'm hungry. Go away! Scan Dad or better yet, scan yourself.

Don't make me get up and grab that iPhone out of your hand. I will put it my mouth and slobber all over it. It will be the best smelling iPhone in town when I'm through with it.

Thankfully, giving Mom the evil eye and threatening her iPhone was enough to make her leave me alone. She put the iPhone done and told me that she was done scanning. For now. I think I'm going to sleep with Dad today just in case Mom wakes up in the middle of the night with an urge to scan a pug.

Even if you don't have an iPhone, the GoodGuide offers a text-messaging application. And if you don't have text-messaging capabilities on your phone, you can visit the GoodGuide website to check on products. No matter which technology you use, the GoodGuide is a handy tool for checking out the 'greenness' of your products. New products are being added every day, so don't get discouraged it don't find the product you are looking for.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Where Has Stubby Been?

I'm sure you guys must be wondering what happened to me this week. It's called neglect. Yep. I have been neglected all week because Mom has been busy working and Dad has been busy traveling.

Dad was in Miami at the beginning of the week and he didn't even have time to visit Coco. Sheeesh. I hope Coco understands that Dad was in Miami on a business trip and that he forgives me. Yesterday, Dad was in Minneapolis and he didn't have time to visit Walter. Dad was in and out of Minneapolis so fast yesterday that he didn't even have time to eat. What? No time to eat? That would never have happened if I had been with him but I can't fly so I stayed home - all by myself.

To make up for the neglect I've experienced all week, Mom and Dad decided to give me a special treat this morning - whipped cream. My new friend Penny is obsessed with whipped cream and I told Mom and Dad that I would like to try some since Penny claims it is the best thing in the world. Since I was looking particularly sad and depressed this morning, in addition to mumbling something about running away, they decided to let me try some whipped cream. Mom didn't think I would like it but she was so wrong.

I didn't know what to expect when Dad put the whipped cream up to my face. He was holding Mom's phone while she was holding me and screaming about not being in the picture. We had just woken up and Mom was looking pretty scary. Mom thinks I look like an alien in this picture. I'm not sure if that's a compliment but I don't have words to describe what Mom looked like.

I hesitated at first because, well, it's a texture thing. And because I thought Dad was trying to trick me - you know, give me a pill or something. He gets pretty creative when he wants me to take medicine and I told him that I wasn't going to fall for his tricks this morning. After he assured me that there was nothing in the whipped cream, I dove in.

Mmmmm. Penny was so right - this stuff is delicious! I'm not sure how I got some on my nose but of course Dad had to take a picture of it.

Nom, nom, nom - very creamy, sweet, and oh so good! The pictures are a little blurry because I was squirming a lot and because Mom's camera phone is not that great.

Did I mention that this stuff is a little messy? Maybe it's just me. Whatever the case, I didn't care if I made a mess because I was loving this stuff. Thanks Penny for opening my eyes to my new favorite treat. Now I wonder if I can get Mom to take me to Starbucks to get the real stuff.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Do You Recycle Batteries?

I'm so confused! I read an article the other day about battery recycling that threw everything I had ever heard about it out the window. To recycle or not to recycle. Which is it?

The article said that rechargeable batteries and button cell batteries can and should be recycled. All other single use batteries? These can be tossed in a landfill. Confused? Me too! This article was from a very reliable source and after reading it, I decided to do some research on battery recycling because this new information goes against everything I know about it.

Have you ever heard of the Battery Act of 1996? I wasn't even born when this was signed into law, so that is my excuse for having never heard of it. Okay, that's really no excuse, is it? I mean, Mom wasn't around for the Revolutionary War but she's heard of and is familiar with it.

The purpose of the Battery Act was twofold: phase out the use of mercury in batteries, and provide for the efficient and cost-effective collection and recycling or proper disposal of used nickel cadmium (NiCad) batteries, small sealed lead-acid (SSLA) batteries, and certain other regulated batteries. Rechargeable batteries and SSLA batteries contain toxic heavy metals such as cadmium, mercury, and lead that are not harmful to humans while the batteries are being used but can cause seriuous harm if not properly disposed. If these batteries end up a landfill, the heavy metals can slowly leach into the soil and water. Yuk! If burned, the heavy metals will end up in air. This is not good either.

So what about single use batteries? Single use batteries such as AAA, AA, A, C & D no longer contain mercury due to the Battery Act, so they are not toxic by themselves. They do contain a metal (steel) casing, so they can technically be recycled with scrap metal, but they must be completely dead (fully discharged) prior to recycling. So we are suppose to recycle them right? Yes, according to the EPA's website that said several reclamation companies now process these batteries.

After the batteries have been collected, they are shredded and neutralized in an acid bath. The material is then run through a kiln to be dried and pressed into magnetic bricks, which are then transported to a steel mill for processing. At the steel mill, they are placed in the furnace where zinc is fumed off into a vacuum baghouse, recovered, and sold as zinc-oxide. The manganese dioxide is then used to in the production of re-bar steel.

But who are these reclamation companies and where are their drop-off locations? Through my research I only found companies that charge a fee for a battery shipping container plus a fee for the shipping itself. Mom used to deposit her batteries in the zoo's collection containers, but I have no idea what happened to them after Mom dropped them off. I am going to email the zoo to find out who recycles the batteries.

Button batteries can be taken back by electronics retailers, hearing aid stores, hospitals, jewelers, or pharmacies for recycling. That's good news. If you have rechargeable batteries, you can search Call2Recycle to find a recycling location near you. Call2Recycle is the only free rechargeable battery and cell phone collection program in North America. Since 1994, Call2Recycle has diverted 50 million pounds of rechargeable batteries from landfills and established a network of 30,000 recycling drop-off points.

The EPA estimates that on average each person in the U.S. discards eight single use batteries per year. A great alternative is to purchase rechargeable batteries and a recharger. Rechargeables last longer, reduce waste, save money, can be recycled, etc. The list just goes on. They are truly better for the environment and they are much better than they used to be years ago.

I'm still a little confused about single use battery disposal because some research I found claimed that single use batteries are not even recycled despite recycling efforts. This is due in large part because the process of recycling is cost prohibitive for the small amount of recoverable material available in each battery. I am going to do more research on this because I don't want to put anything in a landfill that can be recycled. If you have any information about their disposal, please leave it in your comments. All of us want to do the right thing, so we must all work together to get to the bottom of this.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Get Sea Turtles Off The Hook!

Mom was so excited when I found a press release the other day about Kate Walsh and her involvement with Oceana, the largest international organization focused solely on ocean conservation. In case you aren't familiar with Kate Walsh, she is an actress on the show Private Practice.

Kate Walsh is a long time Oceana supporter and she will be featurned in a public service announcement (PSA) that encourages people in the U.S. to get involved and to help save sea turtles. Mom has been trying to get get people involved with sea turtle conservation for years but she's never made a PSA. Hmmm. Mom will never be Kate Walsh but she could make a PSA. I could even be in it even though I'm not a sea turtle!

The campaign is called "Getting Sea Turtles Off the Hook" and it can be seen in print, on TV, and on the Web. The title refers to the fact that lots of sea turtles get caught on hooks hanging off of longline fishing nets, and get trapped in trawl nets and gillnets. Longlines are the worst and are strung across the oceans with baited hooks at intervals. They can stretch for up to 75 feet! That's crazy! These hooks attract everything to them, not just fish. Sea turtles, birds, and even marine mammals get caught in them and die. This is so sad because there are so many animals that are endanged and dying on longlines for no reason. The campaign is focused on gaining stronger protection from fishing gear as well as protection for key habitat areas. Oceana is also working to persuade Congress to pass comprehensive sea turtle protection legislation.

Last summer, Walsh traveled to Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge on St. Croix where she filmed her PSA. This refuge is an important nesting location for leatherback sea turtles and Kate was there during hatchling season. How excited she must have been to witness baby sea turtles emerge from their nests and make their way across the nighttime beach toward the ocean. Mom remembers the first time she saw this on Wassaw Island. She was amazed that these little sea turtles could find their way to the ocean, but it made her sad to think about how many of them would never make it to adulthood. She was in awe of them and is still in awe of them. It never gets old to her and she could watch them every day for the rest of her life.

When you're in the Caribbean you have to swim and that's just what Walsh did - with sea turtles. "It was such an amazing experience to see green sea turtles gliding through the waters," said Walsh. Oh how I wish I could swim with sea turtles! Mom tells me that they not only glide through the water but they also stop and feed, bobbing here and there with the waves. I know that Mom will be swimming with them next month and I hope she takes pictures so I can post them for you to see.

Walsh goes on to say "We need to raise awareness about sea turtles because most people don't even know that they're in trouble. If people know about what's actually happening in the water, it will encourage them to take action to help save sea turtles." Exactly! Only when you know and understand what is happening in the oceans will you get involved in conserving ocean species and their ecosystems. Even if you don't live near the ocean, which we don't, what happens in the oceans affects you. It affects us all and all of us are responsible for caring for them.

After you watch this short video of Kate Walsh's trip to St. Croix, please visit http://na.oceana.org/en/turtlesoffthehook to see additional pictures of her trip and to learn what you can do to help sea turtles.

video

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Operation Migration - Inspiration For Us All!

Does this picture look strange to you? If it does, then you are not familiar with Operation Migration and the work they do every year with whooping cranes. Mom is a bird lover and she especially likes cranes. Each year along with her fellow former docents from the zoo, they travel to Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Refuge in Indiana to witness sandhill cranes flying into the refuge to roost for the night. Jasper-Pulaski is just one stop on their migration route from Canada to Florida and seeing thousands of them fly into the park is magical. Occasionally a whooping crane will fly in among the thousands of sandhills, but Mom has never been there when it's happened.

As of today there were almost 11,000 at the refuge. During the peak of their migration through the refuge, mid-November, up to 20,000 cranes will arrive at sunset, calling as they land in open fields. It is truly a spectacle to see but as you might have guessed, dogs are not allowed. Yep. I don't get to go on Mom's trip. I am a little upset, but I understand that I might scare the cranes and I wouldn't want to do that. Mom's trip is scheduled for this Saturday and I will be resting at home while she is gone, anxious to hear all about the cranes. You can read all about last year's trip here.

Back to Operation Migration. Whooping cranes are the only crane native to North America. Larger than their cousin the sandhill crane, whooping cranes were on the verge of extinction in the 1940's primarily due to habitat destruction, hunting, and shooting by farmers who saw them as destructive to their crops. There were only 15 left in the wild and things were looking very bleak. Incidentally, though the sandhill crane is not threated as a species, the three southernmost subspecies are quite rare. The most abundant subspecies, the lesser sandhill crane, is hunted today in several states across the U.S.

The days of the whooping crane seemed to be on the verge of collapse when organizations dedicated to wildlife conservation stepped up and collaborated to bring them back. Efforts were slow at first but gradually, after many protective measures and educational awareness of the situation, their numbers increase. The situation was still tenous at best, but work continued to ensure their survival.

The only known migratory flock of whooping cranes back then were those that nested in the Northwest Territories of Canada and wintered at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Fearful that disease or human disruption might knock out this flock, leaving only captive birds in zoos and breeding facilities in the U.S., the Whooping Crane Recovery Team established a non-migratory flock in Florida in 1993 using cranes hatched in captivity. This flock of 30 cranes call Florida their permanent home today.

After the success of the non-migratory flock in Florida, the Recovery Team decided to establish a second migratory flock in 1999. They determined that the flock would be taught a migration route with central Wisconsin as their northern most point (near the International Crane Foundation), with the west coast of Florida as their wintering grounds. Ultralight-led migrations would be used to reintroduce the birds to their wintering grounds with the hope that they would retrace the route they took in the fall from Wisconsin back to Wisconsin in the spring to breed. Operation Migration was then born and has been working hard to establish this new flock.

Fast forward to today, its ninth year establishing the new flock, and there are now 77 migratory whooping cranes in the wild in eastern North America. This includes the first whooping crane chick to hatch in the wild in Wisconsin in more than a century. Hooray! Yippee!

But the work continues today. The Recovery Team has established a target number of at least 125 individuals, including 25 breeding pairs, migrating every year via this route in order for the flock to be considered self sustaining. There are only about 500 whooping cranes in existence and only 350 of those are in the wild. A lot of work still has to be done to bring these gracious birds back from the brink of extinction and that's what the dedicated individuals at Operation Migration do. Each and every day of every year they work with the whooping cranes so that you may one day see them in the wild.

This year's cranes to fly with Operation Migration consist of 20 birds that left the Necedah Refuge in Wisconsin on October 23. Captive bred at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, MD, and at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, WI, these cranes will following the ultralights, traveling over 1,200 miles to their winter home at the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, located approximately 65 miles north of St. Petersburg, FL. After wintering over in this 31,000 acre refuge with 250 species of birds, 50 species of reptile and amphibians, and 25 species of mammals including the endangered West Indian Manatee (how cool is that?), they will retrace their migration back to central Wisconsin next spring where they will hopefully breed.

These dedicated people set up camp on each leg of the migration, stay with the birds, and then break down camp once the birds are airborne and on their way to the next stop over point. This is hard, back breaking work that few people are willing to do, but that must be done. Mom knows first hand how hard field work with endangered species can be, but for her it is the most rewarding work she's ever done.

In her latest book Hope For Animals and Their World, Jane Goodall talks about her experience flying in an ultralight alongside the cranes. Her words echoed what most of us would feel given the same experience:


"It is hard for me to describe the emotions that went through me as I sat there behind Joe (the pilot). I felt so much part of the whole scene, flying in that frail little machine above the wildlife refuge, the other ultralights like huge birds, each with its cranes strung out behind, the glory of the morning with its after-rain freshness and rising sun and golden clouds. The reflection of plane and cranes shone in the calm surface of the water below. I developed a new feeling for the cranes themselves on an almost spiritual level of connectedness."

This connectedness the Jane felt is what we all need to feel in order to save endangered species from extinction. Mom is always telling me that you can't teach someone to save an animal until you teach them to love it and I believe this to be true.

This year's flock is currently at their stopover point in Winnebago County, IL, about 1 1/2 hours from our house. They arrived there last Thursday and have been grounded due to unsuitable flying conditions. No chances are taken with the birds and when conditions are not perfect, they don't fly. Tomorrow's forecast looks good and Mom has talked Dad into going out there tomorrow morning to see the cranes take off and fly toward their next stopover point, LaSalle County, IL. Keep your paws crossed that the weather cooperates and that the cranes can fly. Mom has wanted to see this for so long and is so excited at the prospect of witnessing it tomorrow.

This short video is a public service announcement from Operation Migration. Mom tears up every time she watches it because she knows that only with the work of truly dedicated individuals do these birds have a chance for survival. Please watch the video and prepare to be inspired.

video

Monday, November 9, 2009

This is Not a Good Idea

I was so upset when I read last week that Hawaii regulators approved the building of the nation's first tuna farm in waters off the Big Island. Why do we need a tuna farm? We don't. Or do we?

Billed as being an environmentally friendly open ocean farm, the farm is being built to satisfy the world's appetitie for bigeye tuna, a favorite source for sushi and sashimi. But why do we need a farm? Because bigeye tuna has been overfished in the wild. This is not a good thing.

Without top predators like tuna in the ocean, entire ocean ecosystems can and will change. A delicate balance exists where top predators feed on smaller fish, which in turn feed on plankton. Disrupt any piece of this puzzle and ecosystems collapse. Ecosystems that people depend on for their livelihoods. Ecosystems that depend on us for their lives. A world of destruction because of sushi and sashimi. The word sashimi reminds me of the word ashamed. We should be ashamed of what we are doing to the oceans so that people can eat sashimi.

Most people see fish farms as a great alternative to catching fish in the wild. Hmmm. Let's just overfish everything in the oceans and then create farms where we can raise fish. I have a better idea. Let's be proactive, instead of reactive, and not overfish in the first place. What a concept!

As the world population increases, so does the demand for fish. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that the demand for fish will increase by 40% by 2030 and that fish farming is the only solution to feed this need. The demand for meat is just as great and we know what that has done to the planet. Fish farming is equally as destructive but most people aren't even aware of it.

The farm will consist of three large underwater cages. The tuna will be artifically hatched at a lab at the University of Hawaii in Hilo. This is unlike most tuna farms that simply capture immature tuna and fatten them up. Is one way really better than the other? The jury is still out on this.

After the fry (baby tuna) grow to a certain size, they will be taken to the one of the giant cages about three miles offshore where they will grow until they reach 100 pounds. These are really big fish that live a long time in the wild. They are not sexually mature until the age of four and this is why they have been overfished. Fisherman don't give them time to reproduce.

The fish farm will be unlike others around the world. Traditional fish farms consist of huge underwater cages where fish are packed so tightly that the cages become a huge pollution problem. The Hawaiian fish farm will be an 'oceansphere' which looks like this:

Designed by Hawaii Oceanic Technology, the oceansphere is said to be a revolution in open ocean aquaculture. Fish will not be as densely packed in the cages, thus they will not have the same problems that traditional fish farmers face namely diseases. Because the ocean is 1,300 feet deep at the location of the oceanspheres, the strong currents will sweep away fish waste and uneaten food. This will prevent the pollution of the ocean floor. Or will it? The jury is still out on this too.

So how much fish will be farmed in these oceanspheres? Would you believe 6,000 tons a year. That's a lot of fish! Diners in Hawaii, the U.S. mainland, Japan and other parts of Asia will be the
recipients of the fish.

But why even worry about a little fish farm in Hawaii? Because what happens in one area of the oceans affects all areas. It even affects the land masses that we live on. Critics of the fish farm are worried that the fish could escape and contaminate wild fish. Good point. What happens then? They are also worried about how the farm will obtain its fish and its feed. Another good point. Will they import them? Let's face it - this is just an industrial feed lot. It is just like factory farming for beef, pork, and chicken. It's the same thing only it's in the ocean.

Though the company has vowed to only purchase feed made from sustainably harvest fish (is there such a thing?) and has said it won't feed its fish antibiotics, how long can they maintain these promises? If factory farms didn't use antibiotics they would be out of business. It factory farms had to purchase feed from sustainable sources they would be out of business. I think it's only a matter of time before they uncross their fingers and start farming like the big guys do.

Mom and Dad will be on the Big Island one month from today and Mom plans to visit Hawaii Oceanic Technology. She is going to find out as much as she can about the oceansphere that will soon be in the waters off her favorite place on Earth. A place that will soon be turning out bigeye tuna by the ton to feed the needs of people who have no clue where their fish comes from and what it is doing to the planet. The planet we all live on. The planet we must share. The planet we are all responsible for. The only planet we have. If you must eat fish, please make sure you know where it came from, how it was caught, and it's impact on the environment. It's your right to eat fish so make it your responsibility to be informed.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Busy Saturday

I am going to sleep in tomorrow because I had a busy day today. There's always so much to do on the weekend and my parents try to squeeze 4 days worth of work into 2 days. Duh! That's not going to work.

I didn't know where we were going when we left the house this morning, but our first stop wasn't far from home. Mom and Dad had been running around the house before we left putting stuff into boxes and all I could hear was something about everything being expired. What does that mean? Soon after we left the house we pulled into the train station parking lot in our town and the scene looked something like this.
This is a Swalco collection event. Swalco (Solid Waste Agency of Lake County) holds several collection events all over the county. The purpose of the events is to collect hazardous waste from the residents in the community. Waste that would otherwise be disposed of incorrectly. Waste that needs to be disposed of properly.

The event was for Illinois residents only, but you did not have to be a resident of the community or county to drop waste off. The event was free and the lines were a little long when we got there because it was about 65 degrees and sunny. What a beautiful day to collect waste!

Dad cleaned out the garage last year and took a lot of stuff to an event last year, so all we were taking this time were expired medicines and a few aerosol cans. Swalco accepts the following items at their collection events:

Aerosol products
Antifreeze
Asbestos
Batteries: Rechargeable (NI-CAD), Lithium and Metal Hydride (No alkaline or lead-acid)
Drain Cleaners
Driveway Sealers
Fertilizer, Herbicides
Fluorescent Lights and CFL's
Fungicides
Furniture Strippers and Varnishes
Garden and Lawn Chemicals
Gasoline
Hobby Chemicals
Household Cleaners
Insecticides and Pesticides
Mercury (including thermometers and thermostats)
Metal Polishes
Motor Oil
Oil-Based Paints
Paint Removers
Pool Chemicals
Prescription Drugs (for people and pets), Over-the-counter-medicines and supplements
Personal Care Products (including cosmetics, skin care products, shampoos, etc.)
Solvents

What a list! What a scary list. Scary because all these items are hazardous if disposed of improperly. Scary also because some of these items are used with water that ends up going down the drain like household cleaners and drain cleaners. Fertilizers are okay to put on your lawn but not okay to throw away? Pool chemicals are okay to swim around in but not to throw away? I just don't get it. Why are we using things are that hazardous to being with? I need answers!
Mom tells me that in the old days you would just pour stuff you didn't want down the drain or flush it down the toilet. Yikes! Were you crazy? I asked her. She told me that this is what everyone did and that they did it because: a) they didn't know any better and b) because there wasn't such a thing as a solid waste agency. Thankfully times have changed and people have changed along with them.

The mission of SWALCO is to implement a solid waste management plan, which includes facilitating an efficient, reliable and environmentally sound waste disposal system. They also educate the public about the implications of solid waste disposal. Everything that gets poured down the drain or flushed down the toilet ends up in a water treatment plant where it must be filtered to remove the hazardous waste. Most of the hazardous stuff gets filtered out but then where does it go? It ends up in streams, rivers, and lakes, in our soil, and in our air. Proper disposal of hazardous waste is the only way to ensure these toxic substances don't end up in your drinking water. Please do not pour or flush any of the items listed above. Doing this is not only bad for you it's also bad for animals.

After a guy in a hazmet suit came up to the car to get our stuff, we were on our way out of town. Where were we going? At this point I didn't really care because I was loving life. I love riding around in Mom's car with the windows open and the breeze blowing my cute button ears. I was having such a good time in the car that I didn't even realize it when we pulled up to the Dog Wash Express. I was very confused because I didn't need a bath. I had gotten one a few months ago and was still really clean but Mom and Dad told me I was stinky. Stinky good, right? Wrong!

Thankfully, Mom didn't have her camera or cell phone with her to document my bath. The place was crowded so we were in and out in record time. I was a little upset when we left but I thought for sure we were going to visit the drive-thru of my favorite restaurant. Right. Because Dad is on this 'lifestyle program' he no longer eats fried chicken. I could never be on this program because I would die without my Popeyes. We headed for home - me mad and starving, Mom trying to get my hair off of her, and Dad ready to clean the car.

With Dad in the garage cleaning the car, Mom and I headed to the backyard to fill the bird feeders. I was trying to dry off outside but I needed a little nap so I decided to lay down on the grass. I was sleeping peacefully until the mailman arrived.

I love the mailman because Mom loves him. She waits all day for the mailman but I have no idea why. What does he bring her? What is she waiting for? I have no answers to either of these questions but today he brought me something.

My good pal Emmitt and his mom Melissa sent me a little note and a little button! I was so excited to receive them because I hardly ever get any mail.
Isn't the button cute? It looks just like me. I am so lucky to have such great pals like Emmitt and Melissa. I hope one day I can visit them (when there's not 20 inches of snow on the ground) and eat meatloaves with them.
Thanks Melissa and Emmitt. You guys made my day!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I Can Sing!

My good pal Emmitt is working on a new song for the new bears his mom Melissa is making for the Mother Bear Project. Emmitt is a really good singer and those bears just love him.

After reading Emmitt's post today I started thinking that maybe I should start writing songs. I sing all the time, but I never really put much thought into it, so today I had Mom video me singing my latest song. It doesn't have a title yet, so I'm looking for some inspiration. Let me know what you think I should name this tune.

video

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Got Leftover Halloween Candy?

Mom bought some Halloween candy weeks ago and had been slowly eating it. She went back to the store last week and decided to buy something healthy for all the trick-or-treaters so she bought these. She thought she was so smart until Dad asked her if she really thought that parents would let their children eat them. Why wouldn't they? Duh! The little boxes are not sealed/wrapped up in plastic. They are not psycho-proof. Great. So Mom made an 11th hour trip to the store yesterday and bought a 3-pound bag of goodies. Goodies that she doesn't like. Good.

We had a steady stream of trick-or-treaters yesterday, but we still have lots of leftover candy. Since Mom doesn't like the candy and shouldn't be eating it anyway, what is she going to do with it? I can't eat candy and Dad started a 'lifestyle' program last week so he can't eat it. Hmmm. Someone must want it.

Instead of taking leftover candy to work or using it in baked goodies, I found several places that would happily take candy off your hands.

Most shelters, food banks, and soup kitchens would welcome your candy. Shelters always have kids in them that would love to have candy. Getting candy can really make a kid's day. Food banks are places where people come to get food if they can't afford to go to the store to buy it. While people go to food banks to get essential items, picking up a little candy will make not only the kids who are going to receive it happy, but also the parents who will be giving it to them. Soup kitchens provide meals to those in need and having a little candy for dessert is sure to make everyone's day.

Do you live near a Ronald McDonald House? No, not the restaurant, the charity. There are Ronald McDonald House Charities all over the world that provide housing for parents of children staying in nearby hospitals. They would love to have your candy, but please contact them for any candy restrictions before dropping your goodies off. You can visit http://www.rmhc.org/ for more information.

There are so many courageous men and women serving in the armed forces in places far away from home. They are in situations that none of us could ever imagine and having a candy treat from home would be something they would surely appreciate. They also give candy to the children they meet on the streets as these children probably never get any sweet treats. Operation Shoebox is the organization which sends care packages and letters to U.S. troops stationed abroad and they welcome your candy with open arms. Due to the fact that the candy will travel long distances to warm climates, hard and heat-resistant candies are the best to send to them. Check out http://www.operationshoebox.com/ for packing and mailing information. You can even get free flat-rate Priority Mail boxes from the post office to send your treats in.

Even if you don't have enough leftover candy to warrant a trip to a shelter, food bank, etc., I'm sure you have friends and neighbors who are in the same situation you are. Combine all your candy and you've got enough to really make a difference. A difference in someone's life who might not otherwise get a sweet treat. A difference that will make their day and make yours as well.