This is the time of year when migratory birds are on the move! Migratory birds are traveling from their wintering grounds in Mexico, Central and South America to the U.S. and Canada, where they feast on abundant insects and plant foods during spring and summer. How do they know when to leave and where to go?
Birds that migrate short distances – such as waterfowl that migrate within the U.S. – learn migration routes and from older individuals who are more experienced, usually family members. Most long-distance migrants are genetically programmed to head in a specific direction for a specific distance. A bird’s first long-distance migration is completely genetically determined, but more experienced birds may incorporate information learned on past journeys – for example, they may use learned information to return an especially good breeding location in future years.
Viewer Tip: The spring migrants you will see depend on where you live, the time of year and weather conditions. BirdCast provides regional, real-time migration forecasts that take weather conditions into account. Weather conditions in the Great Plains have been generally unfavorable for bird movement, but movement is likely to be heavier this week because of the date. Areas with lighter winds will probably see heavier movement, while areas with heavy precipitation will see lighter movement. Birds you may spot in the Great Plains this week include Common Nighthawk, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Gray Catbird, Orchard and Baltimore Orioles, and Warblers (Yellow, Blackpoll and Tennessee).
Check BirdCast for weekly regional updates on weather and migration forecasts.
(Source: Deinlein, M. “Neotropical Migratory Bird Basics.” Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Migratory Bird Center. http://nationalzoo.si.edu/ConservationAndScience/MigratoryBirds/Fact_Sheets/default.cfm?fxsht=9; eBird. BirdCast Migration Forecast: 4-11 May, 2013, http://birdcast.info/forecast/regional-migration-forecast-4-11-may-2013/; Image of Common Nighthawk courtesy of USFWS)
Air Quality Awareness Week takes place from April 29-May 3, 2013. This year, learn more about how air quality affects your health. And, find out what you can do to protect air quality where you live.
• Air quality is important at every age. Are you at risk for health problems from ozone (sometimes called smog) and particle pollution? Children, people with asthma or another lung disease, healthy adults who are active outdoors, people with cardiovascular disease and people middle-aged and older may be at increased risk. Learn more about the health risks you may face.
• Air pollution isn’t just a big city problem. Poor air quality can be a problem in suburban and rural areas, too. Learn more about how ozone and particle pollution form.
• The Air Quality Index (AQI) helps you plan outdoor activities. Visit AirNow.gov or listen to the local weather forecast to check the AQI in your area and plan accordingly. If the ozone air quality forecast is code orange tomorrow and you plan to exercise outside, reduce the health risks by running in the early morning, when ozone levels are likely to be lower. Learn more about checking the AQI and planning outdoor activity.
• Schools can help protect kids from poor air quality. The School Flag Program alerts parents, teachers and coaches to the AQI forecast, allowing them to adjust outdoor activities or move them inside on days when the air might not be healthy. Children and teenagers are at increased risk from air pollution: their lungs are still developing and they are more likely to have asthma. They are also more likely to be active outdoors, and they breathe in more air per pound of body weight than adults do.
• You can help protect air quality where you live. Saving energy at home, tuning up your car, taking public transit and filling your gas tank in the evening are easy ways get started. Learn more about reducing your contribution to air pollution.
Learn more about how weather impacts air quality.
Air Quality Awareness Week is a joint initiative of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The most commonly used measurement of global warming is the Global Annual Mean Surface Air Temperature Change (see graph at right, and Note 1 below). When you read about “rising temperatures,” this is the number they’re talking about. If you look closely at the far right of the graph you can see that this temperature measurement, after shooting up for the previous couple of decades, leveled off over the last 10 years or so. This despite the fact that we’re still pumping out prodigious amounts of greenhouse gasses.
Several attempts have been made to explain this very short-term pattern in such a way as to show we might be out of the woods on global warming, mainly by weakening the “sensitivity” of our climate models. Hey – those sensitivity factors were inferred from a lot of real data covering centuries and millennia – it makes no sense to me to start fiddling with them based on 10 years worth. I don’t believe in free lunches.
In fact, the recent (and very short by ecosystem timeframes) leveling of the mean global air temperature is likely a case of borrowing from Peter now, only to have to pay Paul back later. I like this explanation because (a) it makes sense, and (b) doesn’t involve a free lunch.
According to a paper in the American Geophysical Union's Geophysical Research Letters, the reason the air temps aren't rising is that the global warming energy has gone into heating the deeper ocean waters. Normally, that doesn't happen - the surface water's warm first and since warm water floats over cold water, the deeper ocean is slow to heat. But - enter the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), which during the past decade has been pushing colder water up from the depths, and circulating the warm water down. With the cold water on top, the ocean has been absorbing more of the heat energy of global warming, leaving the surface air temperatures unchanged.
Trouble is, when the next PDO cycle starts, that pattern will reverse, and much of that absorbed energy will re-enter the atmosphere, and we'll pay for this decade of "flat" temperatures with a decade of rapidly increasing temperatures. In fact, say the scientists, this is exactly what happened in the late 80s and 90s (1998 remaining one of the hottest years on record).
That's the trouble with looking at one number (mean global surface temperature) as a proxy for the complex phenomenon of climate change. We have to remember that “Global Warming” refers to the entire 3D globe, not just the surface.
We're coasting now, but hang on to your hat!
This graph is from from NOAA (see the original at data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs_v3/). Temperatures are shown as a departure (“anomaly”) from the 1951-1980 average. So over the last 10 years or so, the mean surface temperature has been holding steady at 0.6 degrees Celsius (1.08 degrees Fahrenheit) over the 1951-1980 average.
This week Office Depot, Southwest Airlines, Cricket Communications, and Hewlett-Packard joined the growing market trend against the logging industry’s greenwash program, The ‘Sustainable Forestry Initiative’ (SFI).
That brings the total to 24 prominent brands including AT&T, United Stationers, Pitney Bowes, and Allstate that ForestEthics—an environmental advocacy group that I work for—has persuaded to act against SFI. And our campaign against SFI also includes a growing nationwide citizens’ movement concerned about SFI, including more than 20 of North America’s leading environmental organizations and tens of thousands of individuals concerned about the long-term effect of SFI’s program on our forests.
In response to our campaign, SFI has twice threatened to sue ForestEthics. Our replies to these threats affirm our commitment to continue to expose SFI’s greenwash.
And here’s why SFI is greenwash: If the SFI puts its green leaf and tree logo on a product or its packaging, that means it came from industrial logging that causes distinctly un-green things like landslides, poisoned communities, polluted water and dead wildlife. Knowing this, the logging industry invented the SFI to mask its environmental destruction—because they also know the market for their products is becoming more environmentally aware and demanding. So SFI exploits conscientious consumers by misleading them into thinking an SFI-labeled product or package is ‘good for forests’ when it’s not. We know the name for that – greenwash – and we can’t take it lying down.
Knowing and exposing the truth behind SFI-labeled products like envelopes, catalogs and copy paper is the first step in building a grassroots citizens’ movement to stop this logging industry scam.
In Office Depot’s new Greener Purchasing Policy for Paper Products, SFI certification is only a minimum requirement and is not considered 'green'. The brand will now give policy preference to Forestry Stewardship Council certified and recycled papers. Southwest Airlines will continue to avoid the use of the SFI logo and name on its materials and will maintain its preference for FSC-certified paper when purchasing certified paper products. Cricket Communications will maintain a strong preference for FSC certified products and will avoid using or promoting products certified by the SFI. Hewlett-Packard (HP) recently confirmed that 100 percent of its HP Everyday paper products are now FSC-certified in the Americas. This milestone is the result of HP’s commitment to use FSC as the benchmark for acceptable forest certification in procurement and marketing.I believe that there are no bad people, only bad choices. That’s why I am particularly proud of ForestEthics’ work to educate America’s most revered brands on the impact their colossal buying power has on our environment. When we help the customers of these companies connect the dots between paper products and landslides, poisoned communities and threats to rare wildlife, we give these individual consumers a stronger voice in how America’s biggest brands use their buying power. Because when consumers connect the dots, major corporations follow.
Kristi Chester Vance is the Deputy Director of ForestEthics.
This news release is reposted with permission from Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization.
An entirely new approach to oil spill problems associated with drilling, transport, pipelines and storage mishaps could find surprising common ground between the oil industry and environmentalists, according to a new position paper just released entitled: A Call for a Twenty-First-Century SOLUTION in Oil Spill Response. Written and compiled by the Science and Technology Board of the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization (LAEO), the analysis not only brings to light the dangerous flaws associated with current oil spill cleanup methods, but outlines technology they claim will not only save marine life, oceans, animals and people, but also save millions (and in BP's case could have saved billions) of dollars in damages and cleanup costs to oil companies and local economies impacted by spills.
Citing recent scientific papers showing that the industry's ineffective remedies are more destructive than the oil itself, LAEO's paper asserts the source of the problem has been the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) 'misguidance' documents their investigation uncovered that have been perpetuated and enforced throughout the industry.
"These faulty guidelines and ineffective remedies for spill problems have resulted in industry officials with a 25-year addiction to chemical dispersants used in our oceans and who mistakenly think that these are the best tools for managing environmental damage and profit loss from oil spill fines," said Diane Wagenbrenner, one of the paper's joint authors and Advisory Board member of LAEO.
"'Spill it, boom it, skim it, sink it, disperse it, and hide it' is a mantra that recurs throughout most oil spill incidents including now the ExxonMobil Pegasus pipeline in Mayflower, Arkansas currently being treated with boom and adsorbents that are as ineffective as paper towels in cleaning up a massive spill," said Barbara Wiseman, LAEO's International President, another joint author of the paper. "We intend for this publication to correct the EPA's inaccurate guidance documents that have been barriers to effective clean up—and we believe, that even the oil companies will welcome it."
The LAEO paper discusses ineffective handling of the Gulf of Mexico BP oil spill disaster when predominantly treated with the industry's favorite spill killer – Corexit. Originally developed by ExxonMobil, it is a toxic, hydrocarbon-based, oil-dispersant agent. The analysis makes an undeniable case that the use of chemical dispersant violates the Clean Water Act by contaminating the water column and seabed.
"The fact is, the Gulf ecosystem is still in crisis and certain members of the EPA have been using these erroneous documents to stand in the way of our and others' efforts to get the waters truly cleaned up. BP's pension-dependent shareholders could have saved billions, if the use of non-toxic, already-EPA approved technology had not been blocked by top EPA officials who themselves violated the Clean Water Act during the Deepwater Horizon disaster," stated Jeanne Pascal, retired EPA attorney and another joint author. "Inadequate oil spill response outcomes have become the industry norm."
Alongside publishing its industry guidance reform paper, LAEO launched a government and public education and awareness campaign on 20 April coinciding with the third-year anniversary of the start of the BP Gulf Oil Spill and Earth Month. The position paper and their 'earth troops' Oil Spill Response Action Kit can be found at www.ProtectMarineLifeNow.org. The BP spill anniversary day inaugurates their Change Oil Spill Response Now campaign aimed at building a global consensus and Internet presence promoting safe, non-toxic, cost-effective oil spill response.
Photo by Fotolia/Frankix
A phony logging industry “eco-certification” entity funded by Weyerhaeuser, Plum Creek, International Paper, Sierra Pacific and other US logging companies attempted last week to bully ForestEthics into silence.
Sorry, SFI (the so-called Sustainable Forestry Initiative), we’re not going to stop talking about your greenwashing of clearcuts, chemical spraying, and logging of endangered forest areas that you “certify” as “good for forests.” We call ‘em like we see them, and SFI’s claim that it’s an “independent nonprofit public charity” protecting forests with scientifically-credible standards is a lie.
Don’t get me wrong, SFI has plenty to be upset about. Weyerhaeuser, Plum Creek and many others have spent tens of millions of dollars creating and funding the SFI program to label the paper and wood they sell from destroyed forests as “sustainable.” SFI sells itself as an “eco-label” that unsuspecting companies use to indicate to their employees and customers that the wood and paper they use or sell is responsibly harvested from forests. It was working–they tricked a lot of companies into thinking the label meant something special. Just in the last two years, however, over 20 major companies, including Energizer Batteries, Office Depot, AT&T and Allstate Insurance, have begun moving away from using the SFI label.
The solution for SFI is to radically change its approach, not use lawyers to try to silence its critics. And the organizations critical of SFI go way beyond ForestEthics to include many of the biggest names in the environmental movement: Sierra Club, NRDC, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace.
But bullies want to bully, and SFI’s lawyers demanded that ForestEthics “cease and desist” from calling out SFI. For example, SFI objected when we said that the SFI was “owned and operated” by some of the biggest names in the logging industry. ForestEthics said this in an email to our supporters–an imprecise communication medium to say the least.
What’s SFI’s point? The program is birthed by logging companies and the primary logging industry trade association, and almost entirely funded by SFI’s “participants” (93% and possibly more of its annual budget). Yet SFI says they are technically a non-profit so technically no one “owns” a non-profit, therefore they have no “owners.” Really?
If this is the best SFI can come up with to defend its greenwashing ways, things will only get worse for them. You cannot lawyer your way into being seen as honest and independent. Despite the fact that nearly all of SFI’s funding comes from the logging industry, SFI still claims it is “fully independent.” This is the sort of “independence” that has led SFI to certify as “good for forests” the following practices by Weyerhaeuser, Plum Creek, Georgia Pacific (the Koch family!), Sierra Pacific and its other donors:
• Huge clearcuts
• Logging of old growth forests
• Logging in endangered species habitat
• Clearcutting steep slopes near salmon streams
• Aerial spraying millions of gallons of chemical herbicides
Do these practices sound like they’re “good for forests” to you? And a review of SFI’s forestry “audit” process tells you all you ever need to know: after checking out over 500 of those audits it appears that no company has ever lost its SFI certification. Plus, many companies don’t even get criticized by SFI for the worst kind of logging—the kind that results in huge landslides, or which harm or kill endangered species. There is seemingly no logging practice so destructive that SFI will not call it green. You have to at least credit them with an inordinate amount of chutzpa.
Sustainable Forestry Initiative is the best greenwashing that money can buy. That’s why so many retail companies have dropped the SFI label and it's also why the premier green building system, LEED, has refused SFI’s many attempts to make SFI certified lumber eligible for LEED green building points.
None of this will slow down even if SFI goes through with its threat and attempts to silence ForestEthics with a lawsuit. And this is the central lesson that SFI and its corporate backers refuse to learn: No matter how much logging industry money is used to disguise SFI, the truth always has a way of getting out.
You can read our lawyer’s reply to SFI here, and SFI’s threat to ForestEthics here.
Photo by Fotolia/Taina Sohlman
National Public Gardens Day is a celebration of America’s public gardens and a day to raise awareness of their importance in our communities. Public gardens play a large role in promoting education about water and plant conservation and environmental awareness. Public gardens are also a fun, low-cost activity for people of all ages.
On Friday, May 10, more than 500 public gardens, arboreta and zoos from all over the U.S. will be celebrating by holding special events for visitors.
Many local gardens will be offering free and discounted admission. Check out the National Public Gardens Day website for free admission at a garden near you and find where other events may be happening in your area.
Photo By Fotolia/ARTENS