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odds and ends

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Diego, the Tortoise Whose High Sex Drive Helped Save His Species, Retires

With the future secured, he’s finally going home. Good job, Diego.

By Aimee Ortiz
Jan. 12, 2020

A member of the giant tortoise species indigenous to Española Island in the Galápagos in Ecuador, Diego was one of 15 tortoises in a captive breeding program at the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Center on the island of Santa Cruz.

Among the males, Diego displayed an exceptional sex drive, so much so, he’s credited with helping save his species from extinction. Approximately 40 percent of the 2,000 tortoises repatriated to Española Island are estimated to be Diego’s descendants, officials said.

Now, more than 100 years old, he is retiring, since the Galápagos National Park announced the end of the breeding program, saying an evaluation showed it had met its conservation goals. (Maybe he doesn’t want to quit now!!)

Begun in 1965, the program on Pinzón Island started with the last 2 males and 12 females, plus Diego, a 30-year old male from the San Diego Zoo who is believed to have been taken from Española Island in the 1930s.

For many years, feral goats overran the island, competing for food and destroying the habitat. Conservationists have worked to restore the island’s habitat, including the growth of cacti, which are a main source of food for the tortoises.

There are more details on the breeding program here.      And here.

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LAURENT GILLIERON-AP

Photo: Laurent Gillieron. AP

Climate Crisis Will Reshape Finance,
Andrew Ross Sorkin,

January 14, 2020

Laurence D. Fink, the founder and chief executive of BlackRock, announced Tuesday that his firm would make investment decisions with environmental sustainability as a core goal.

BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager with nearly $7 trillion in investments, and this move will fundamentally shift its investing policy — and could reshape how corporate America does business and put pressure on other large money managers to follow suit.

Mr. Fink’s annual letter to the chief executives of the world’s largest companies is closely watched, and in the 2020 edition he said BlackRock would begin to exit certain investments that “present a high sustainability-related risk,” such as those in coal producers. His intent is to encourage every company, not just energy firms, to rethink their carbon footprints.

“Awareness is rapidly changing, and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance,” Mr. Fink wrote in the letter, which was obtained by The New York Times. “The evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions about modern finance.”

In recent years, many companies and investors have committed to focusing on the environmental impact of business, but none of the largest investors in the country have been willing to make it a central component of their investment strategy.

In that context, Mr. Fink’s move is a watershed — one that could spur a national conversation among financiers and policymakers. However, it’s also possible that some of the most ardent climate activists will see it as falling short.

More details here.

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Tyler Varsell

Photo: Tyler Varsell

Climate Fwd – One Thing We Can Do: Fix Recycling
by Eduardo Garcia,

January 15, 2020

For years, we relied heavily on recycling operations in China to take our waste. But that came to an end in 2018, when Beijing barred the import of recycling materials. The result is a waste crisis that has caused at least dozens of municipalities to cancel curbside recycling programs, with many more implementing partial cuts. Huge amounts of recyclables are now going to landfills.

Experts say that we would need to implement changes across the board. Legislators may need to pass laws requiring manufacturers to use more recyclable materials, companies would need to build much-needed recycling infrastructure and people would need to recycle properly.

Cities can’t do all that. But they can play an important role.

For a possible model, consider San Francisco, which runs one of the most successful waste-management programs in the United States. Through recycling and composting, the city manages to keep around 80 percent of its waste out of landfills.

San Francisco’s program has been years in the making. In 2000, it introduced the “fantastic three” citywide curbside collection program with separate, color-coded bins for recyclables, compost and trash. In 2009, it passed a law requiring residents and businesses to separate their waste.

Other policies include bans on hard-to-recycle items including single-use plastic bags and polystyrene packaging and an ordinance requiring food vendors to use compostable or recyclable food containers.

San Francisco’s system is built on a highly unusual partnership with a single waste company. That company, Recology, has had a monopoly on handling San Francisco’s waste for almost 90 years. That no-bid, no-franchise-fee concession has come under harsh criticism over the years.

More here.

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Also, in “Spotlight On” –

800px-Coprinellus_micaceus_Glimmer-TintlingGlistening Inkcap

This is a common edible fungus found all over the world. It grows in dense clusters on rotting hardwood and disturbed ground sites. Under humid conditions, it can also grow indoors on rotting wood. In one instance it was discovered about four hundred feet underground in an abandoned coal mine, growing on wooden gangways and props used to support the roof. The Glistening inkcap can be highly productive, with several successive crops appearing during one fruiting season.
The entire cap surface is covered with reflective cells that look like flakes of mica, which give this mushroom its name.
It is edible, and is enjoyed in omelets and sauces. Nutritionally, it contains a very high concentration of potassium, but also accumulates heavy metals from exposure, so it should not be collected from roadsides and other areas that may be exposed to pollutants.
The scientific community has found the Coprinellus micaeus of interest since 1601, when it was the subject of a monograph by Carolus Clusius in The History of Rare Plants. As this mushroom is plentiful and easily grown in laboratories, it has often been the subject in studies of cells and the processes of spore production.
Bioactive compounds have been isolated from Coprinellus micaeus. One was found to inhibit the enzyme that aids cancer cells to resist chemotherapy, and one has been shown to have some modest potential as an antioxidant. (From Volume 1 of Secret Voices, Coastal Redwood Companions)

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And, don’t forget my books, Secret Voices from the Forest – Thoughts and Dreams of North American Trees, are on sale on Amazon.com. p.s. There are some weird people offering them for sale, sometimes for hundreds of dollars! Don’t be fooled. The list prices are $28.95 for Vols. 1 & 2, and $32.95 for Vol. 3.

cover    cover-SV2    Vol. 3 - The East copy

See ya later, alligator.

 

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News from The Treetalker

Invasive, native marsh grasses may provide similar benefits to protected wetlands, Science Daily, via N.C. State University

Researchers here have noticed that the Common reed, which is an invasive species, has many of the same benefits for protected wetlands as the native marsh grasses it is crowding out, such as equivalent or even better levels of carbon storage, erosion prevention and plant diversity.

A great deal of money is spent trying to eradicate it, this research could impact management strategies, since this species protects shorelines from erosion by spreading more quickly. Shoreline erosion is a major problem, with rising seas.

read more here.

Seth Theuerkauf

Photo: Seth Theuerkauf

Researchers create hydrogen fuel from seawater, Stanford University, March 18, 2019

A “Water Engine” splits the molecules in water to access the hydrogen, which is then used as alternative energy (in hydrogen powered vehicles, for instance.) However, the existing water-splitting methods rely on highly purified water, which is a precious resource and costly to produce.

Stanford researchers have devised a way to generate hydrogen fuel using solar power, electrodes and saltwater from San Francisco Bay.

Splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen with electricity — called electrolysis — is a simple and old idea: a power source connects to two electrodes placed in water. When power turns on, hydrogen gas bubbles out of the negative end — called the cathode — and breathable oxygen emerges at the positive end — the anode.

But negatively charged chloride in seawater salt can corrode the positive end, limiting the system’s lifespan. The team wanted to find a way to stop those seawater components from breaking down the submerged anodes. They discovered that if they coated the anode with layers that were rich in magnetically negative charges, the layers repelled chloride and slowed down the decay of the underlying metal.

The surprisingly quick and simple solution is detailed in the following article, which you can read here.

H. Dai, Yun Kuang, Michael Kenney

H. Dai, Yun Kuang, Michael Kenney

Schools’ climate strike: Young people protest across EnglandBBC News, March 15, 2019Young people who have skipped school to join climate change protests across England have told the BBC there is no point in learning when their future is at risk.Thousands of schoolchildren have flooded into city and town centers across the country as classrooms around the world were abandoned for a day of demonstration. Some of their administrators were not in favor of the demonstrations, and said there would be consequences for skipping classes. One student responded, “I really don’t care what consequences they give us, it’s more important that we fight for our future. This is the world we’re going to have to live in.”Read more here

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An Elusive (Recently Discovered) Whale Is Found All Around the Worldby Karen Weintraub, for The New York Times, March 22, 2019.Researchers are learning about a newly identified species of baleen whales, tracing sightings and sounds to learn that they stay mainly in tropical waters. Salvatore Cerchio stunned the small world of whale science in 2015 when he found examples of a new species in the wild for the first time. Now, he’s mapped the habitat of that species, called Omura’s whale after Hideo Omura, a prominent Japanese whale biologist.The surprise in the new study, published in Frontiers in Marine Science, is that Omura’s whales, though little seen, are widespread across the tropical world.A researcher found a population off the northwest coast of Madagascar, where he works, and compiled reports of sightings from Japan, Australia, Brazil and off the coasts of Indonesia, among others. In total, from photographs, audio recordings, museums and documents, he identified 161 accounts of Omura’s whales in 95 locales.Technological innovation in recording devices, advances in genetic analysis — and simply knowing what to look for — seem to have led to the new insights. Scientists said the finding is a reminder of how little we actually know about what goes on in the world’s oceans.Read details here.

photo quora

Photo: Earth.com

Also, this week, “Spotlight On:” the Atlantic spotted dolphin…

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Photo: Quora

and remember, you can find all three volumes of “Secret Voices from the Forest, Thoughts and Dreams of North American Trees, on Amazon.

Make sure you buy them from me personally. There are people selling them for some outrageously high prices, which is some new weird scam. Vols 1 & 2 are $28.95, and Vol 3 is $32.95.

Vol. 3 - The East copy   cover-SV2  cover

 

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News from The Treetalker

WWF“What does ‘protecting people and forests,
supporting economic growth’ mean to you?”

Forest News, Gabrielle Lipton, July 12, 2018, Dateline: Indonesia

At the 2018 Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit, Forest News spoke to the director for The Nature Conservancy about rethinking the way forests factor into development, if they are to keep giving us the things we want and need.

The initial economic growth of these countries has been fueled by harvesting and selling of timber. This area holds about 60% of the world’s population, and as people’s lifestyle improves, forested land disappears in favor of agriculture, animal husbandry and mining. This results in poor air quality because of carbon emissions.

The organizations attending the Summit are working to advance ideas about ways to help the population’s economic growth continue to expand without cutting down all the trees.

Read this article here.

Xavier Cortada

T Agitprop—12 Artists on Climate Change, by Zoe Lescaze of the New York Times, August 22, 2018

A strongly visual article about the work of 12 contemporary artists who focus on several different aspects of climate change, such as rising sea levels, or connections to other living species and our affect on them, the destruction of beautiful natural landscapes, the extraction of resources from the land, the impact of more powerful storms on society and critically endangered species and the issue of extinction.

Visit the article for a look at some of their works and their stories.

Xavier Leoty:AFP

From Angelique Chrisafis, in France, for The Guardian, August 24, 2018
Choose a Side: the Battle to Keep French Isle McDonald’s-Free

The Mayor of Ile d’Oleron, the second-biggest island off mainland france after Corsica, is a major tourist destination is leading the fight, saying the island is “not about mass consumption.” Others say, “Oleron is a beautiful place, it’s important to protect it. We don’t need McDonald’s in a place that is pioneering local organic food, sustainable development, zero waste and alternative ways of living that aren’t about mass consumption.”

The battle has been going on for 4 years. Recently, a court in Poitiers ruled that the town had no legal basis to stop McDonald’s and must let them come in or pay fines on a daily basis. The verdict on the appeal is due next month.

Read the article here.

Dmitry Kostyukov:NYT

Also from the New York Times:
Paris Bees at Work From Notre-Dame to the Luxembourg Gardens
Paris has seen a marked rise in urban beekeeping, with more than 1,000 hives atop landmark buildings as well as in community gardens across the city.
By Alissa J. Rubin, August 24, 2018

Hives have been on the roof of the Opera Garnier for over 30 years; there are hives on top of Notre-Dame Cathedral, and Luxembourg Gardens have been home to honeybees for over 150 years. They also give apiculture classes, with perhaps 200 people graduating every year.

Paris officials want to ensure that there will be enough bees to service the trees and flowers of the many local parks, gardens and cemeteries. “Perhaps one reason people now want to keep bees is that it’s a way of participating in the protection of the environment.”

Paris has all but ensured the relative purity of its honey by eliminating the use of pesticides in city parks and gardens, and forbidding pesticides on plantings on home terraces and roofs, as well as cemeteries.

Read the article here.

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Remember, Secret Voices from the Forest—Volume Three: The East is now available, $32.95 on Amazon.

cover proof #1

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News from The Treetalker

Focus on: the Rainbow Snake

    Highly aquatic, this beautiful snake can be found among floating vegetation in freshwater streams, along riverbanks and in cypress swamps and marshes of the coastal plain of southern North America. Not a great deal is known about

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Herpsofnc.org

this non-venomous species, as it is very reclusive and spends most of its life in the water or hiding in available cover.
As an adult, the Rainbow snake eats only American eels. Landlubbers such as myself probably never consider that eels are fish, with a complicated life cycle that begins in the Sargasso Sea. Visit this page for the rest of the article.

Young gorillas are working together to destroy poachers’ traps in Rwanda

Reblogged from Eben Diskin, June 5, 2018 – visit here for the full article:

Joakim Odelberg.jpg

Photo: Joachim Odelberg


The famed Highland Gorillas of the Rwanda National Park have apparently learned how to dismantle the traps that poachers have been setting for them, and have teamed up to do the job.  Kick ass! Read the original – it’s not very long.

Bringing more Green power to the Res, with Renewable energy:

Rachel Hamalian, volunteer from Trees, Water and People, reports from Pine Ridge about the Lakota Solar Enterprises. They say this about themselves:
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“In partnership with Trees, Water & People (TWP), Lakota Solar Enterprises founded and now operates the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC), where Native Americans from around the country come to receive hands-on training in renewable energy applications from fellow Native American trainers. RCREC’s facilities also include demonstration solar air furnaces, a solar electric system, straw bale home demonstration sites, a wind turbine, green houses and garden, buffalo from the Red Cloud herd, and wind break and shade trees. In addition to educating about the benefits of renewable energy, RCREC’s workshops are creating green jobs for residents of Pine Ridge, S.D., as well as visiting trainees from other tribes. As tribal leaders learn how to incorporate sustainable technology into housing plans, employment training, and energy strategies, the impact will increase exponentially.”

from the NY Times weekly newsletter, Climate Fwd:

from June 27, 2018, both positive and negative. Please visit the page for the stories in their entirety. The reporters are Henry Fountain, Livia Albeck-Ripka, John Schwartz and Brad Plumer

Getty images

Bad News for Ozone Layer Recovery  (Getty Images)

1)  Research by an investigative reporter from the Times, stationed in Beijing, has shown that there’s a high probability that several businesses in China are supplying and/or using CFC-11, even though it’s long been banned. This could delay the restoration of atmospheric ozone by 10 years or more.

Maine Lobster – Greta Rybus for The New York Times

2)  Apparently climate change can be bad for some, good for others. There has been a recent boom of Maine’s lobster fishery. Warming waters and conservation efforts by the lobstermen has helped the industry increase by 500%.

Carl de Souza:Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

3)  Brazil isn’t doing so well in it’s efforts to protect its rain forests, with more than 3 million acres cleared by ranchers, farmers and miners. Not only are fires set deliberately, to clear the land, but a severe drought last year caused the fires to spread rapidly, out of control, making the losses much worse. Double-whammy, causing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere to increase ever more.

In all the world’s tropical forests lost roughly 39 million acres of trees. This is only slightly less than the total losses from 2016. Tropical forests are shrinking overall, with losses outweighing the gains. And they’re just talking about tropical forests. . .

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Arkansas Rig – Andrea Morales for The New York Times

4)  From a new study that came out in mid-June, in the journal Science, we see that much, much more methane (the main component of natural gas) is leaking from domestic oil and gas operations than the industry admits – nearly 2 ½ percent – you might think, “That’s not much,” but in truth, it’s enough to fuel 10 million homes for a year.

Methane has the capacity to warm the planet 80 times as much as the same amount of carbon dioxide, over a 20-year period, if it escapes into the atmosphere before being burned. If the rate of leakage rises above 4 percent, it could actually be worse for climate change than burning coal!

The good news is that most of the leakage is fixable at a relatively low cost, and the fix would pay for itself with income from the saved gas, which is estimated to be some $2 billion a year. Exxon Mobil, the largest gas producer in the country, hopes to reduce its methane emissions by 15 percent over the next year and a half.

Not sure if that’s a sufficient sense of urgency.

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That’s all the news for this posting. Don’t forget, Volume 3 of my series, Secret Voices from the Forest—Thoughts and Dreams of North American Trees, is brand new, and available through Amazon. Here’s the link.

Vol. 3 - The East copy

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The Treetalker

spanish-moss-and-cypress

Focus on: Spanish Moss—This familiar plant, seen draping off Live oak and Bald cypress trees all along the Gulf Coast, is not a moss at all. Rather, it is an epiphyte, which attaches itself to tree trunks and branches, rather than rooting in the soil.
However, it is not parasitic, and does not compete with its host for food. It takes in nutrients and moisture directly from air and rain, through the scales on the long gray “stems.”—thus the common name, “air plant;” but because it is so exposed, it is unable to tolerate airborne pollution or excessively cold temperatures.
It is the only member of the bromeliad family—which includes orchids and pineapples—that is indigenous to the North American continent.
Although today Spanish moss is mostly used in flower arrangements and as packing material, it was once utilized as stuffing for furniture, mattresses, automobile seats and the walls of homes as insulation. In 1939, over 10,000 tons of moss were processed for these purposes.

Environmental Happenings:— This week, some articles from the NY Times special newsletter, “Climate Fwd:” You can access the report at this link. 
The articles were written by
By John Schwartz, Brad Plumer and Livia Albeck-Ripka for the article, published on May 30, 2018.

* 1) Creating an ice rink in the deserts of Nevada? Boy, there’s an energy guzzler!

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** 2) Most of us environmentally-minded folk have heard that the methane produced by livestock accounts for 26% of all methane emissions in the U.S. (Do they consider what people might be adding to that figure?) Some scientists—of course—are trying to develop a drug to counter the problem; however, one Canadian farmer discovered, by accident, that his cows were healthier and produced less gas when they ate seaweed that had washed up on the shore. Turns out some types of seaweed contains a substance that neutralizes the methane-producing stomach enzyme.

Ah, nature always finds a way. . .

So the scientists are testing new diets, with some promising results.

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*** 3) final article in this report: “Aspirational recycling.”

You may also have heard recently that China, who has been one of the world’s main importers of recyclable waste (geez – who would WANT that job?), has recently said it will reject shipments that are more than 0.5 % impure – like, when people don’t wash things out, or put other kinds of garbage in the recycling bins – apparently messy cardboard pizza boxes are a big offender, along with all those things we think are #1’s and #2’s, but are actually #5’s or something else (like the lids of just about everything!)

So, “rinse stuff out and read the numbers in the little triangles on the bottom of the item” is the main takeaway, but do read the article.

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My new book, Secret Voices from the Forest—Thoughts and Dreams of North American Trees, Volume Three: The East has just come from the printer. Buy at Amazon—I’m the only one selling it!  $32.95 + shipping.

Vol. 3 - The East copy

And finally, my latest blog post, “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing,” in which I (sort of) express my views on current events.

For all these articles, visit my personal website.

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New Stories on The Treetalker

Coming Soon!

Secret Voices from the Forest—Thoughts and Dreams of North American Trees—Volume 3: The East will be available by this time next week, through my website http://secret-voices.com or on Amazon. Check there after June 10.cover proof #1

Also this week, at The Treetalker, some new posts

Spotlight on: The Coywolf – a new species!  http://laurajmerrilltreetalker.com/index.html

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Environmental Happenings:  http://laurajmerrilltreetalker.com/environmental-happenings.html

  1. Silvopasturing – a way of raising cattle that is far more environmentally friendly than the common practice of raising animals in feedlots.
  2. Don’t Kill That Spider! – the little beasties that live in our homes.

    And on my blog: http://laurajmerrilltreetalker.com/blog.html

    “The Problem with Self Publishing”

    dd55722239a914d6d84bc4052e09c230

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Positive news about trees and the environment (for a change!)

Great wall of trees keeps China’s deserts at bay, called “The Great Green Wall” – a massive belt of trees being planted across China’s arid north -“ has reportedly improved vegetation and dust storms have decreased significantly in the region, compared with other areas. Read the full text of this and other stories at my website, listed below.

Landov:Xinhua:Press Association Images)

http://laurajmerrilltreetalker.com
Steam to run one of Procter & Gamble’s largest paper manufacturing plants will soon be created by using peanut and pecan shells, treetops and mill waste such as sawdust. A $200 million biomass cogeneration plant, which is now under construction in Georgia, will significantly increase the Cincinnati-based company’s use of renewable energy.

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Chiefs’ Joint Restoration Projects to have Meaningful Impact on Family-Owned Forests in Oregon’s Elkhorn Mountains and Wisconsin’s Lake Superior watershed, where family forest owners are being engaged to help reduce the risk of wildfire, improve the habitats of threatened fish and animals, ensure clean water, and other critical outcomes.

Elkhorn_Mountains_(Union_County,_Oregon_scenic_images)_(uniDA0022a)
U.S. Wildlife Managers Mark Population Rise for Rare Mexican Grey Wolf, which were believed to be all but extinct in the United States in 1998 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began reintroducing the animal to its native range. The number climbed to 109 in 2014, marking the fourth consecutive year that the population has risen by at least 10 percent.

desert.usa.com

EU Introduces New Rules to Make Cooking Greener. The sale of energy wasting ovens and cooking hobs will be banned across the European Union, beginning Friday. The cumulative savings from the rules across the bloc would run into billions.

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Epercent percent.WildlifeService began reintroducing the animal to its native range. The number climbed to 109 in 2014, marking the fourth consecutive year that the population has risen by at least 10 percent.
EU Introduces New Rules to Make Cooking Greener. The sale of energy wasting ovens and cooking hobs will be banned across the European Union, beginning Friday. The cumulative savings from the rules across the bloc would run into billions.

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