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91 posts from March 2011

March 29, 2011

Bird Cams Offer Rare Glimpses Into Avian Lives

Bald eagles In a 2.0 world, social media allows people to connect to new communities, ask new questions, and create new dialogue. But can social media help people connect to nature? That’s a central question for a host of websites that feature streaming video footage of animals (birds, mostly) at home in nature.

Bird cams let anyone with a computer play the role of Big Brother, taking a peek into the private lives of animals they wouldn’t otherwise be able to see. Over time, bird-cam devotees become amateur scientists, making discoveries about bird behavior and asking questions typically posed only by professional ornithologists.

“Different pieces of information get picked up by different people and they kind of run with them,” said Patrick Keenan, outreach director for the Biodiversity Research Institute, whose website features live, streaming video of bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and loons. BRI’s cameras, installed in nests, have documented behaviors — like a rogue mink that pushed a loon off its nest to eat its eggs — previously unknown to science.

The cameras act as full-time monitors so scientists and the public can observe birds without having to camp out in a blind all day. “You have to watch the birds all the time and they can actually be very secretive,” Keenan said. Though scientists have used hidden cameras for years to spy on animals, streaming video makes it possible for the public to go undercover too.

BRI isn’t the only site on which to watch birds. Click through for a list of other popular cams:

Continue reading "Bird Cams Offer Rare Glimpses Into Avian Lives" »

Christie’s Green Auction: A Glamourous Bid to Save the Earth

Lady Gaga Christie’s, one of the world's largest art auction houses, has partnered with Charitybuzz and Runway to Green to host its second annual Green Auction. Last year’s event raised $2.4 million for the NRDC, Conservation International, Oceana, and the Central Park Conservancy.

Among the more notable items up for auction this year: a special day with Bill Clinton, a ride in Harrison Ford’s personal plane (piloted by Han Solo himself), a chance to meet Lady Gaga, meeting Justin Bieber backstage in Tokyo, a tennis lesson with John McEnroe (wear a helmet), and vacation packages to Patagonia, the Australian outback, and other exotic locales. While tonight’s live auction in New York is an invite-only event, the online auction at Charitybuzz is open to bidders around the world until Apr. 7.

Those of us committed to the cause but unable to shell out big bucks for these glamorous but odd prizes (falconing with the Kennedys, anyone?) can text “gogreen” to 20222 to donate $10 to the auction’s beneficiaries.

--Zoë J. Sheldon

Green Your Humor: Irreverent News

More bad news Let's be honest: We all know that enviro-head who can be a real Debbie Downer. Sure, climate change, oil spills, and nuclear disasters are serious business. But people may tune us out if we never take a moment to laugh at ourselves. This week's tips should help.

Tip #2: Change the Channel

Whether you've overdosed on constant disaster coverage or you're just a broke eco-news junkie who's been thwarted by the New York Times- paywall, humor is the best cure for a news hangover. Our favorites for comic relief: the Onion, the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the Colbert Report, and SNL's "Weekend Update."

Tell us: What are your favorite news spoofs?

March 28, 2011

Daily Roundup: March 28, 2011

Sunny Controversy: The Mojave Desert seems like a perfect place in which to meet the growing demand for solar energy. But how will the ecosystem fare in response? Mother Jones

Hellish PR Campaign: The cancer that decimated Tasmanian devil populations has Australian conservationists working on an image makeover for the feisty mammals. Los Angeles Times

Little Buggers: Scientists discovered a wealth of microscopic biodiversity on plastic floating in the ocean. Nature

Dumbed Down: Officials at Northern California’s utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, announced that the wireless signal on electricity smart meters can now be switched off, for a price. The signal is being blamed for headaches, dizziness, and other maladies. New York Times

Yielding Benefits: Organic farming is equally as productive as using conventional methods and tends to develop soil better, according to new research. Grist

--Tim McDonnell

TurfMutt the Dog Plans to Save the Planet One Yard at a Time

TurfMutt_Photo by the Opei Education and Resource FoundationMove over, Batman. The world’s newest caped crusader has arrived, and he plans to save the planet one yard at a time. Lucky, a dog named after he was rescued from the middle of heavy traffic by Kris Kiser, executive vice president of the OPEI Foundation, is the furry face behind a series of educational programs that teaches kids eco-awareness. When he’s on green duty, Lucky is known as “TurfMutt,” and if he could talk, he’d be telling you to get outside and take care of your lawn.

Kiser, who's long been interested in landscape management, got the idea for TurfMutt soon after rescuing Lucky. “Dogs know your lawn best,” Kiser said. “They know when it’s healthy and when it’s not. From an education perspective, if you can link an issue to an animal, it can be very relatable to an elementary-school kid.”

Working with Discovery Education, the TurfMutt Science Program lets TurfMutt share his rescue story with kids and teach them about plant science using games and experiments. Students are encouraged to explore how green spaces benefit their communities via lessons such as “Eat Your Plants!” and “How Green is Your Community?

Continue reading "TurfMutt the Dog Plans to Save the Planet One Yard at a Time" »

Green Fashion Monday: Organic Socks

Organic socks On Fashion Monday, we highlight a hip, green fashion item. Got a stylish eco-friendly product to recommend? Tell us about it and look for it in an upcoming blog post.

The next time you need of a new pair of socks, choose organic cotton to discourage the use of pesticides and other environmental toxins. An up-and-coming brand to consider is Zkano, which is run by a dad-and-daughter team in Alabama. Their stripey, knee-high offerings are made in America (sweatshop-free, natch) and come in fun colors sourced from low-impact dyes. They’re soft and 100% certified organic, so it’s hard to go wrong. Starting at $12.50 per pair (though Blissmo is having a today-only sale on a women's three-pack)

--Avital Binshtock

Green Your Humor: The Joke's on Us

Laughing at ourselves Let's be honest: We all know that enviro-head who can be a real Debbie Downer. Sure, climate change, oil spills, and nuclear disasters are serious business. But people may tune us out if we never take a moment to laugh at ourselves. This week's tips should help.

Tip #1: Enjoy the Well-Timed Quip.

Is that awkward silence telling you that those pollution stats you just rattled off may have killed a party's festive mood? Save the conversation with a playful zinger — even a cheesy joke can show you've got a sense of humor. Draw inspiration from Planet Green's list of green jokes or Grist's roundup of "light bulb" jokes aimed at familiar environmental groups. Here's how we fared:

Q: How many people does it take to screw in a light bulb at a Sierra Club meeting?

A: Five to talk about it in committee, one to argue that we shouldn't be wasting the electricity, and one to screw the darn thing in!

Got a good joke? Tell us in the comments section!

March 25, 2011

Daily Roundup: March 25, 2011

Late Notice: Problems with the EPA's radiation sensors could delay emergency warnings by several hours. Los Angeles Times

Grave Danger: Two workers at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant were treated for radiation burns after being exposed to contaminated water, fueling fears of a possible breach of the reactor core. Japan's prime minister said that the situation is "grave and serious." Atlanta Journal-Constitution, NPR, and Daily Mail

Joe vs. the Volcano: A fire sparked by the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii has burned 2,000 acres of national park land. Firefighters are still struggling to contain the blaze, which threatens endangered plants and animals. Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Chicago Tribune

Blast from the Past: A shovel operator unearthed a dinosaur fossil in Canada's tar sands. A rare discovery, the ankylosaur is Alberta's earliest complete dinosaur fossil. Reuters

Sigh of Relief: Firefighters have gained control of a Colorado wildfire that forced residents of 9,500 homes to evacuate. CNN 

--Della Watson

Fido's New Job: Conservation Work!

working dog A dog’s sense of smell is close to a million times more powerful than a human’s, so they’re constantly tuned into cues far beyond our sensory realm. We’ve long taken advantage of these canine olfactory powers for police assistance, search-and-rescue jobs, and locating long-lost socks under the bed. And now wildlife biologists are learning how to put those wet noses to work.

Concerned about the effects of traditional research methods like trapping or sedation, scientists are exploring non-invasive alternatives. Scat samples, for example, provide a wealth of information about wild animals, and as any dog owner can attest, dogs have an uncanny ability to find poop.

Working dogs can be trained to seek the feces of specific animals and can differentiate easily between the scents of closely related species, even in the ocean. Marine biologists use Conservation Canines to detect orca poop from more than a mile away. (Check out this video of Tucker, orca-tracker extraordinaire, on the job.)

Continue reading "Fido's New Job: Conservation Work!" »

How to Turn a Blender Into a Lamp

Blender lamp If your loyal blender finally dies from making one margarita too many, give it a noble afterlife — and shine a light on your DIY skills — by converting it into a lamp. Here's the list of what you'll need:

  • Blender
  • Lamp cord set
    • Lamp cord, about 6 feet
    • Socket, standard Edison works well
    • Switch, clamp-on
    • Plug, clamp-on
  • X-acto knife
  • Screwdriver
  • Wire cutters
  • Pliers
  • Rotary tool, such as the one made by Dremel, with a grinding bit. If you don't have a rotary tool, borrow one from a well-outfitted neighbor or snag one from Craigslist and watch it change your life.
  • Lightbulb, sized to match socket (CFL, please).

For the step-by-step instructions, click on over to Sierra magazine's latest "Repurpose" column.

--Wendy Becktold


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