Sunday, May 26, 2019

Living Off The Grid

Environmental & Science Education
Sustainability
Culture
Society
Miscellaneous
Edward Hessler

Margaret Gallagher has lived in an off-grid cottage near the Irish border in County Fermanagh since 1942. She never caught up with the so-called modern world indeed to me it seems she never tried.

She talks about her life in this BBC film.


Friday, May 24, 2019

Friday Poem


Image result for nature

Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

Today's poem is by Denise Levertov (1923 - 1997).

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Teeming Planet Is Teeming Ever Lesser

Image result for endangered animalsEnvironmental & Science Education 
STEM
Sustainability
Extinction
Nature
Biodiversity
Edward Hessler


If one were to think of global climate change as one side of a coin what would be on the other face of the coin?  My candidate would be biological diversity.  And like a coin the two faces are intimately combined and interacting. 

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem (IPBES) is the intergovernmental body which assesses the state of biodiversity and of the ecosystem services it provides to society. The 7th session of the IPBES Plenary, met April 29 to May 4 in Paris.

The report, stunning in its implications, tells us that "Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history."  Here are some of the findings.
  • Three-quarters of the land-based environment and about 66% of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions. On average these trends have been less severe or avoided in areas held or managed by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities.
  • More than a third of the world’s land surface and nearly 75% of freshwater resources are now devoted to crop or livestock production.
  • The value of agricultural crop production has increased by about 300% since 1970, raw timber harvest has risen by 45% and approximately 60 billion tons of renewable and nonrenewable resources are now extracted globally every year – having nearly doubled since 1980.
  • Land degradation has reduced the productivity of 23% of the global land surface, up to US$577 billion in annual global crops are at risk from pollinator loss and 100-300 million people are at increased risk of floods and hurricanes because of loss of coastal habitats and protection.
  • In 2015, 33% of marine fish stocks were being harvested at unsustainable levels; 60% were maximally sustainably fished, with just 7% harvested at levels lower than what can be sustainably fished.
  • Urban areas have more than doubled since 1992.
  • Plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980, 300-400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other wastes from industrial facilities are dumped annually into the world’s waters, and fertilizers entering coastal ecosystems have produced more than 400 ocean ‘dead zones’, totaling more than 245,000 km2 (​~95000 mi2​) - a combined area greater than that of the United Kingdom.
  • Negative trends in nature will continue to 2050 and beyond in all of the policy scenarios explored in the Report, except those that include transformative change – due to the projected impacts of increasing land-use change, exploitation of organisms and climate change, although with significant differences between regions.
​The numbers found in the report are overwhelming at times, more than one can comprehend or grasp. They are found in a long listing in the media release, broken into categories (General, Species, populations, and varieties of plans and animals, Food and Agriculture, Oceans and Fisheries, Forests, Mining and energy, Health, Climate change, and Global goals.​

We've heard the warning words/phrases before: 'unprecedented', extinction rates 'accelerating', current responses are insufficient, 'transformative changes' are needed. This time though these words/phrases are used about an incredibly comprehensive report--145 expert authors, 50 countries represented, input from 310 experts, and the time frame: changes are assessed over 5 decades. In any event, 1,000,000 species are threatened with extinction. Whether action will follow is another thing (see below).

One thing I've not mentioned but which is clear from the report demands emphasis: humanity depends on nature and its services.

Currently the IPBES includes 132 member nations. And yes the U.S. belongs, something I no longer take for granted.

The media release is found here. It is comprehensive, i.e., not a one-pager with links.. Below are links to four short videos.

IPBES Assessment of Land Degradation and Restoration 2018

IPBES Regional Assessment of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services 2018

IPBES Assessment of Pollinators and Food Production 2016

IPBES Assessment of Scenarios and Models of Biodiversity 2016

The BBC announced the report with a short video. Take a peek.  The BBC also prepared  a short report of five things learned from this study of nature in crisis. The most important one for me was "Boy, are we in trouble."
Image result for ipcc

Is there any political progress toward doing something now or in the future? Matt McGrath, writing for the BBC, notes a similarity between the IPBES report and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the first "will inform the talks on a 'new deal for nature and people' (China 2020), the second informed the 2015 Paris agreement on global warming."  

However, McGrath notes the difficulty ahead. "If a new global deal on nature is to be struck, then it will need the participation of heads of state. Right now, despite the evidence from the IPBES report, that seems a very big ask." (my emphasis)

Indeed.






Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Nature Play

Image result for catherine duchess of cambridgeEnvironmental & Science Education
STEM
Early Childhood
Nature
Children
Edward Hessler

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge adds her voice to the need for nature play as well as spending time in nature in a short video from the BBC.
She had a hand in designing the garden featured at the Chelsea Flower Show, a garden so magical that I fully expected to see Pooh Bear at any minute.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A Predator at Work


Image result for glassworm

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Behavior
Biological Evolution
Biodiversity
Edward Hessler

I posted about a lake management study recently in which one of the featured players were Daphnia.

Daphnia have their predators, too, one of which is the phantom midge larvae. According to a recent report in Science (March 27, 2019) by Erik Stokstad the "predators—phantom midge larvae, also known as glassworms—are common in lakes worldwide. Now, scientists trying to learn how the neckteeth work have captured the first high-speed footage of a glassworm attack—and they have discovered that it is one of the fastest in the animal kingdom."

See the article with a short movie of a nasty looking predator at work. It reminds me of the predator in the 1986 movie Aliens.

Monday, May 20, 2019

A Game About Birds



Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Edward Hessler

In Wingspan (Stonemaier Games), a card-driven board game, players compete to discover birds and attract them to wildlife reserves.

It is for 10 yo and up.

You may learn more about it here which includes videos of the release trailer (released March 8 2019), how to play the game, watch an unboxing and link to the gorgeous prints of the featured birds by Natalia Rojas.

The game was designed by Elizabeth Hargrave (Maryland).

Stuart West (University of Oxford) tested the game with a team of academics, graduate students, a biodiversity analyst and "older" children (my emphasis--wish he'd been more specific). "What makes Wingspan special," West wrote in Nature," is how science infuses it. You can't play without painlessly absorbing some zoology. Perhaps a bonus card nudges you to hunt for woodland species, or you focus on species that gain points through predation. Or maybe you're just pleased to get a paricularly stunning species...."





Saturday, May 18, 2019

Roolz!


Image result for kid outside

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Children
Early Childhood
Nature
Edward Hessler

Brian Doyle was a remarkable poet, essayist and writer.

I dearly miss his wise words but find myself revisiting them occasionally.

Here he lists his children's rules for nature, all 21 of them.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Friday Poem


Image result for dandelions

Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

Today's poem is a week later than it should be. Dandelions are already blooming no matter where one looks--N, E, S, W and all points inbetween.

So a poem about dandelions by Julie Lechevsky.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Wood Wide Web


Image result for tree roots

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Microbiology
Climate Change
Sustainability
Edward Hessler

I'm a fan of the BBC's short videos.

Here is one about how microbial communities connect trees (and why this is important).

And here is a short essay from Science (AAAS) on mapping the "wood-wide web."

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Ice Stupas

Image result for ice stupaEnvironmental & Science Education
STEM
Engineering
Sustainability
Water & Watersheds
Culture
Edward Hessler


Elizabeth Kolbert begins her recent New Yorker article by providing some useful information about stupas. "The word comes from the Sanskrit, meaning 'to heap' or 'to pile up'—is a Buddhist monument that often houses a relic. Over the millennia, stupas have been built from many materials—wood, stone, earth, clay, brick—and have taken many forms, from simple domes to ornately tiered towers.

"The first ice stupa was created in 2013, in Ladakh, in Kashmir. 

"Villages in Ladakh, a high mountain-desert region bordered by the Himalayas, largely depend on glacial runoff for water. As the glaciers recede, owing to climate change, the flow of water has become more erratic. Sometimes there’s too much, producing flash flooding; often, there’s too little. The ice stupa, a kind of artificial glacier, is the brainchild of a Ladakhi engineer named Sonam Wangchuk. In a way, it, too, is designed to house relics.

...

"The stupas are created in winter, using runoff or spring water that’s been piped underground and downslope. The water is released at night, when temperatures can drop below zero degrees Fahrenheit. It shoots through a sprinkler into the air and freezes. In the course of the season, elaborate conical structures take shape, with the contours of the drip castles that kids make on the beach.

"Ice stupas can reach the height of a ten-story building. They start to melt in March, and at higher elevations—some villages in Ladakh sit more than fifteen thousand feet above sea level—the process can last through July. The meltwater helps farmers get through the crucial spring planting season, when they sow vegetables, barley, and potatoes. (Rainfall in the region averages only around four inches a year.)"

Kolbert's essay appeared in the print edition of the May 20, 2019 The New Yorker.

Here you can watch a short video--not narrated unless you know the local language. I read the essay first--beautifully written and photographed. It includes diagrams on how stupas are constructed as well as a link to the video which begins with kids at play.