From the Mouths of Babes...and Pets!
Saturday, January 31, 2009 | Author: eventer79
It appears that innocence leads to wisdom. I just wanted to share one of those gems from my all-time favourite comic strip, Mutts. This was one of the days when it hit the nail on the head with such poignancy and truth that I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time.

And Justice For All?
Friday, January 30, 2009 | Author: eventer79
Livestock kills are an oft-cited excuse for the execution of our aforementioned plantary co-habitors, the grey wolves. Of course, it only takes a little time observing or learning about wild canines versus domestic ones to realize something doesn't quite add up. Everything about a wolf in relation to human presence is aloof, secretive, held separate, always choosing to retreat into the soft quiet of a wood or mountain over the noisy vibration of domesticated areas. Something in our gut shakes its head with the knowledge that only a desperate wolf would choose our altered space over his natural one.

Well, it looks like there's a new show in town: CSI:Pastureland. A new paper from Sweden published in the journal Conservation Genetics shows that the scapegoat should really be called the "scapedog." Using DNA from saliva recovered from the bite wounds on sheep, scientists were able to conclusively determine that the murder was executed in the pasture with the fangs by Professor Fido. That's right, a domestic dog. Previously, wolves had been blamed for these kills. Despite the genetic similarities between dogs and wolves, DNA tests are still able to differentiate and finger the guilty party. Hopefully, inspectors worldwide can begin to set things to right and clear the murky reputation that has unfairly settled about the thick fur of the grey wolf. No more taking the fall for Feral Fluffy. Perhaps this will also bring more attention the problem of abandoned and unsupervised dogs...

Wander and hope, my friends!
Rant Launch in 3...2...1...
Thursday, January 29, 2009 | Author: eventer79
So I'm sitting at a public hearing last night about updates to wildlife regulations. I learned that now we are instituting a permit system for allowing people to kill species listed as Species of Concern (one notch below Threatened) if they are "depredating" (read: eating landscaping, etc) your property. You could already kill them anyway, but a permit system will allow for tracking of who's massacring what. It was explained that this regulation was designed especially for people who are having "elk problems" in the mountains (elk are currently a species of concern here).


If you don't like elk wandering into your yard, DON'T LIVE IN THE BLOODY MOUNTAINS. Stay in your damn suburb. And don't tell me you have to move there because of a job, because there are no jobs up there. Don't build your stupid McMansion in the woods and then start whining because the animals that live there happen to wander through and munch on the tasty buffet of plants you had your landscaper put out.

These people want to live in places that are "scenic." So they buy part of a mountain, build some ridiculous house, go up there for a couple weekends out of the year. But all that wildlife and dirt and quiet and darkness and disorder is just way too damn far outside of their comfort zone and they want it to look like their little manicured, sterile yards in the subdivision. So they expect us to let them kill the elk, introduce invasive plants, install 50 "security lights," cut down the trees to improve their view, build and pave roads, and erect police stations, fire houses, hospitals, Starbucks, and a Target for their convenience and comfort. Well, congratulations, you just turned your scenic mountainside into the ugly suburban hell you came from. And in the process, killed or drove out all the nature that you supposedly came up there for.

So do us all a favour: if you want to live somewhere with the above list of amenities, don't come to our wild places and expect us to domesticate them for you. For five seconds, experience a moment outside of your egocentric world and leave a place or two for the wildlife because they have nowhere else to go. You are welcome to come and visit and take pictures.
The Coolest Chick EVER!
Monday, January 26, 2009 | Author: eventer79
Yes, I have found her at last, quite possibly the coolest woman alive. Ok, I say this a little tongue in cheek (why is that word so hard to spell, I always want to type "cheeck", it just seems like there SHOULD be a "c" there, but I digress..) but mostly seriously. Her name is Anne LaBastille and I am reading "Woodswoman", the first of her books about her life after her early divorce.

This chick decided to heck with it all, she was going to follow what she loved and build a log cabin in the woods on a lake. So she up and buys 22 acres in the Adirondacks (this was in the mid-60's I believe) and proceeds to construct her little kingdom. She literally goes to the sawmill, buys 20-something huge aspen logs, grabs a couple guys to bring a generator and some tools to the property so they can frame the building, floats the logs up the lake, and proceeds to build her cabin. With an axe. She then lives there with her boat, and eventually a German Shepherd named Pitzi. She is bloody awesome.

No, she does not become angry spinster woman, for all of you who might want to shove her into that peg the world makes for women who get fed up with some dumbass guy's crap and decide that surrounding oneself with beauty and animals is a better option. She entertains regular visitors, does biological field work in South America, completes a degree in wildlife ecology (no easy feat, I can tell you that!), works as a consultant and writer, and becomes certified as an Adirondack guide.

It's like a drink of fresh, cold water, to hear the voice of a strong, intelligent woman who took the lemons of divorce and made an incredible, life-filling lemonade that she enjoys with every fiber of her being. She has that ability which I constantly seek, to be fully connected to the forest and its life all around her, yet fully engaged in the outside world. Her cabin remains both her sanctuary of retreat and her platform from which to launch herself to wherever her eyes are set.

Yeah, I freaking love her.
An Intervention
Friday, January 23, 2009 | Author: eventer79
Just a quick note of good tidings! Barack Obama has put a freeze on all last-minute Bush decisions, or crimes, as the case may be. This includes the delisting of grey wolf populations that I wrote about a couple entries ago.

So clap your paws, wanderers -- they're not relisted yet, but we are moving back in the right direction!

Does Your Meal Have a Fishy History?
Tuesday, January 20, 2009 | Author: eventer79
Eating fish guilt-free is about as easy as putting a six-legged cat in a bucket of water. And if you think that doesn't sound so hard, try it when the cat has been first rolled in crisco...

Why such a challenge? As of today, we have managed to pretty much fish out most of the world's oceans and fresh waters. Approximately 90% of edible sized fish in the ocean have already been caught and killed. The few that remain have the unlucky assignment of finding each other (puts a cruel twist on that old saying "there are other fish in the sea") and making lots and lots of young 'uns so we can eat them too. So each one that we consume has a risk of being a critical individual with the potential for breeding and keeping the species alive. Some species teeter far too close to the brink, such as orange roughy and Patagonian tootfish (the latter you may know as Chilean sea bass, euphemistically renamed by restaurateurs to increase sales).

If we should happen to go ahead and gulp down the rest of those very important mothers-to-be (can we help it if they taste like heaven when they are battered and fried??), not only will the local fire department fish fry be a bygone, but economy chunks worldwide that depend on commercial and recreational fishing (exports alone account for about US$71.5 BILLION in 2004 -- for comparison, the US exports about $3 billion and imports $12 billion) would collapse.

On top of the damage done by simply directly overfishing species by taking out too many animals or removing them before they have a chance to reproduce, we also endorse rapacious damage to worldwide habitats by the methods used to collect and/or grow seafood. Take shrimp for example: if you eat shrimp that come from Asia, it was grown on a shrimp farm that was constructed by destroying native mangrove forests, which was once nursery habitat to other aquatic life and feeding grounds for birds, mammals, and other fish. If, on the other hand, you chant "Go USA!" while downing shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico, you are eating animals collected with the extremely destructive process of bottom trawling, which tears up vital bottom habitat on which the health of the entire gulf depends (we'll save the benthic ecology lesson for another day).

Above is a satellite image of trails left on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico by trawling vessels....seen from space.

So, now you are quivering in the corner, afraid to even cast an ashamed glance at the fish counter in the supermarket despite your mother's insistence that you must eat seafood to fully develop your brain!! Not wanting to live as a mentally stunted adult, you desperately seek a solution -- but now, you may halt your quest for I have the grail you seek (but I want.........a shrubbery! *I couldn't stop myself*)!

Pick up your cell phone and send a text message to 30644. All you have to type is the word "fish" and then the species you want information about, say "eel." In a few moments, you will receive a message back telling you the conservation status of this species and the probability that you can sleep guilt-free after eating this particular animal (if whomever you have bought it from has it labeled correctly -- BUT another discussion for another day!). RED means don't buy, YELLOW means proceed with caution and probably best to give it a miss, GREEN means ok. Messages have NO additional charge on top of your cell phone plan.

For example, I can text "fish eel" before I order my favourite sushi. I promptly learn that eel has a "RED" status and is high on the list of heavily impacted species. Despite its tastiness, I should give it a miss so I do not assist in pushing this species closer to the brink of extinction.

Some species have different categories depending on where they are from. If you type in "fish shrimp" for example, you will receive three different ratings, one each for imported shrimp (RED), gulf of mexico shrimp (YELLOW), and northern/pink/farmed/Canadian shrimp (GREEN).

So, let your fingers wander -- no longer must you dine and shop uninformed! And as a result, Happy Shrimp is happy (this is actually the logo for a eco-friendly shrimp farming venture in the Netherlands)!
Make Today a Day of Service for Wildlife
Monday, January 19, 2009 | Author: eventer79
A new administration is inaugurated tomorrow and we can only hope they will begin to reverse the trends that have ravaged not only the US but the world over the last eight years. Today is a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Join Defenders of Wildlife in making it a day of service to honor the right to life unhindered for ALL living things:

Take action for wildlife now.

May every species have a chance to wander where they belong...
Warning: Do Not View While Drinking....
Saturday, January 17, 2009 | Author: eventer79
...or else whatever you are drinking may end up snorted onto your monitor. The LOL kittehs always provide me endless nose-clearing amusement (promotes sinus health too!) -- if you have never had your life enriched by the kittehs, then you must wander over NOW and enter the dimension of hilarity! This particular gem was too good not to share!

Shot in the Back
Friday, January 16, 2009 | Author: eventer79

Press release of January 14th: in the few remaining hours of a presidency that seems like it will never end, the US Fish & Wildlife Service has again delisted the grey wolf (pictured right).

Details here: Natural Resources Defense Council News

IDIOT!!! (that is directed right at you, Secretary Kempthorne -- I'd use a stronger word, but you may not understand it, given that the rudiments of ecology escape you completely)

Even if you are completely backwards and hate wolves and blame them for everything from lack of profits in ranching to your burnt toast, this action is 100% illegal. Federal courts already ruled that the FIRST delisting, which resulted in over 100 dead wolves, was illegal. WHY ON EARTH ARE YOU STUPID ENOUGH TO THINK YOU CAN GET AWAY WITH IT A SECOND TIME???? It's nothing but a parting "screw you" to the citizens of this country (or at least any of them with half a brain or a quarter of a conscience).

Because grey wolves are listed under the Endangered Species act, in order to be legally delisted, the species must meet the goals listed in the Recovery Plan, a document put together at the time of listing which details how many populations and sometimes individuals there must be before the species' status can change. Here's a big surprise: those goals have not been met.

So why should you be pissed off that this is going on? For one, we need predators to keep our ecosystems healthy and that includes public lands that you have paid for. Ever since grey wolves have been reintroduced to Yellowstone, elk herds have been healthier and more controlled in numbers, which means there is less overgrazing by rampant elk, which means that native plant communities are rebounding, which means the bugs are happy, which means the birds are get the picture!! All of this is not possible without the top predator, the grey wolf. (And what the bloody hell is with the logic "hey, we reintroduced the animals and were so proud of it, but eh, we're tired of them now, let's go back and shoot 'em all." Dear god, people make my head hurt.)

We have precious few top predators left in the US and it is easy to see what fills the vacuum. White tailed deer taking over every nook and cranny they can fit into, so overpopulated that thousands starve to death every winter. Smaller predators like raccoons and possums multiplying like rabbits with nothing to keep them in check. Native plant communities and landscaping alike devoured to the nubs by deer and rabbits who also enjoy breeding like, well, rabbits! The cascade of effects is long and it is all a result of our own paranoia and fear when it comes to predators.

Wolves do not hunt down and attack people and children. They will go out of their way to stay as FAR from you as possible and have ZERO interest in interacting with civilization unless they are starving and desperate. There are somewhere around 20 recorded wolf attacks in modern history. Most of those were instigated by humans seeking out and harassing these secretive animals.

Wolves do not massacre huge amounts of livestock (or anything for that matter). The average wolfpack is successful at killing an elk 1 out of 15 times it tries. Confirmed wolf-livestock kills are so small in number that wolves don't even warrant their own category in reports -- most canine kills or harassment are a result of stray dogs. Often wolves do not even kill their own prey but will scavenge gut piles left by hunters or the kills of other predators, much like a coyote will.

Ok, I could probably go on about this for a very long time, but I will be no less outraged by the end of it. Some backwards western lobby has some senators and probably our beloved *insert dripping sarcasm here* Mr. Kempthorne in their pocket and is not only trying to push through illegal government activity, but is trying to destroy a part of our natural heritage as well.

Maybe you'll never see a wolf, maybe you'll never hear how magical a howl sounds after sunset. Maybe you'll never feel that thrill of knowing a truly wild thing is alive and fulfilling its crucial role in keeping the system in balance, is trotting across a snowy field in the dark living in a world of sounds and smells that we will never know. Maybe you feel like all of this is far away from you and you're not sure what value it all has.

But I can tell you this and you can know it to be true: everything in the world is part of a huge web, a system that is so complex, I don't believe we can ever completely understand it. You start pulling strands and species out of that web and soon enough, it's going to fall in around your head and what you find after the dust settles is not going to be any kind of place you want to live.

What is at the heart of what is happening in this situation? The government is trying to help a handful of small-minded, uninformed, misled, and backwards-thinking people exterminate a species. And if they have some success with one species, you can bet you will be kissing goodbye to a lot more after that. Which one will be the one that brings it all down? What kind of dark and damaged place will be left for your children to grow up in and for their children to live in?

I will close with the wisdom of a man who was one of the world's greatest naturalists and explorers, William Beebe, who said in 1906, over 100 years ago, as he saw already how human greed and selfishness mowed down the very world they depended on:

"The beauty and genius of a work of art may be reconceived, though its first material expression be destroyed; a vanished harmony may yet again inspire the composer; but when the last individual of a race of living things breathes no more, another heaven and another earth must pass before such a one can be again."
You CAN Make a Difference!
Sunday, January 11, 2009 | Author: eventer79

Wander over here and click the purple button. This site has been verified by and others. Ad revenue generated by your visits and clicks does actually go to provide food for hungry rescue animals. It doesn't take any effort on your part, it's free (so NO excuses!), and you can do it multiple times a day if you are so inclined. I have it bookmarked and try to visit at least once a day. Take a second and make a difference for a deserted pet today.

They also have a store with lots of neat stuff bearing the pawprint logo, I am sorely tempted by the cute purple vests calling my name -- "buy me, buy me, you will be helping an animal...." *resisting evil tempting merchandise voices...*

Ok, ok, dogs and cats aren't wildlife but ALL animals deserve compassion and care! (well, except for maybe fire ants, I just can't bring myself to swell over with love for those particular beasties...)
Daring to do the right thing...
Saturday, January 10, 2009 | Author: eventer79

The president of Ecuador has made this unprecendented offer (see website) in a part of the world where people get shot for defying Big Money. I learned about this at the Society for Conservation Biology conference this past summer and I think you could have knocked me over with a feather. The deadline for this offer was December 2008 -- I do not know what the current status is.

The heartbreaking part: all it takes to keep this oil (literally only days' worth) underground and the rainforest (among the richest and most diverse in the world) intact is a sum of cash that is a pittance in comparison to what nations spend. Less than it would cost for us to buy one cutting edge fighter jet, an amount of money our government spends on toys without blinking an eye. On top of that, the price the president asks is only half the estimated value of the oil if it were to be extracted. And NO ONE, NO ONE has stepped up with any cash. NO ONE IN THE WHOLE WORLD, or at least they hadn't as of July 2008.

This should be front page news, given all the talk our society is giving to trying to be "greener." It doesn't get any easier than this -- just write a check and a huge area of priceless carbon sink and biodiversity is saved. No actual effort or inconvenience or thought required!! Sort of makes me ill even thinking about the lack of response....

And if that is not heartwrenching enough, read this letter from a group of indigenous women from this section of Ecuador.

Spread the word, wanderers, I sent this link to the NYTimes main page and international department to see if they would cover it and had no luck.
Of Plants and Men
Friday, January 09, 2009 | Author: eventer79

I'm always looking for my next favourite book, so I have to introduce you to Wade Davis. He is an ethnobotanist (translation: anthropology mated with botany and the result is this esoteric but fascinating field of study) with a gift for writing. My first meeting with him was on the pages of "The Serpent and the Rainbow" where he travels to Haiti to investigate the legend of the zombie (oh yes, they DO exist and you'll just have to read the book to find out how). My mother gave me the book and I started it, thinking I'd be bored silly (despite my love of biology, botany leaves me noticeably glassy-eyed) -- instead, I was sucked in and couldn't put it down. Part adventure tale, part forensic investigation, and part just-plain-meeting-really-interesting-authentic-people, his travels with voodoo left me hungry for more.

So I hit up another (also a gift from mom, she has a knack for finding these things for me) that I just finished, this time the considerably more sizeable both in topic and doorstop quality "One River." Davis tells not only of his own mid-70's graduate project in the Amazon studying coca and its origins, but also his professor's exploits in the 40's and 50's with hallucinogenic plants and wild rubber. It did take me a loooooooooooooooooooong time to read it (and I'm a pretty fast reader), but it was simply fascinating and like most naturalist/adventure books, made me long for a good adventure, which I haven't had in years!

Interesting side note: Davis' professor, Richard Evans Schultes, supposedly had a lab where he taught at Harvard where he assigned his students to sample a hallucinogenic plant of choice and report on the results. All I have to say is: where was THAT class when I was an undergrad????!

Even if you don't think you're into reading biology books or books about plants, I still highly recommend. Davis makes the story flow so despite the fact that he is educating you, it doesn't hurt one bit. And it keeps me in perspective, reminding me that there is a whole world out there full of places that each have their own unique beauty and challenges, each with their own peoples and flora and fauna and rivers and seasons. I'm only a tiny tiny tiny tiny tiny piece in all of that and somehow, that keeps me grounded....

So wander on -- right to your local library and check it out!
Wednesday, January 07, 2009 | Author: eventer79
Blogs are strange and interesting things. I still wonder who the hell would want to read whatever is on my mind. But there is so much that I want to write about, I figure at the very least it will amuse me. So there it is -- I don't really care if you agree with me, but at the same time, I do hope that you can read with an open mind and maybe, if I'm really lucky, consider yourself informed and educated.

What do I envision for this blog? An exploration of topics related to conservation, the human relationship (or lack thereof, as the case may be) with the natural world, behaviour, environmental ethics, and whatever else is on my mind. This is not only the field within which I work, but my life's passion that resonates in every fiber in my being. It makes me swell with wonder and weep with helplessness, sometimes all at the same time -- a phenomenon both maddening and fulfilling. Additionally, conservation somehow became a "hot" topic within the last few years, which I am undyingly grateful for: they say that there is no such thing as bad publicity! But as a result, people are lost in a miasma of messages about "green" this and "ecofriendly" that and I don't think they are getting correct or, more importantly, complete information and I want to try to ameliorate some of that.

So, since the internet gives us the power to talk about whatever we want, whenever we want to, then I'm finally going to take advantage of that and throw my brain dribble out there to contribute to and hopefully enrich the boiling stew of facts and ideas already swirling around in the internet's giant toilet bowl. Feel free to suggest a topic if there is something you would like to know more about in the conservation genre and I'll happily take it under consideration. Ideally, I'd like to post once a week, but we shall see what happens realistically.

Until next time, wander on...