Five easy ways to save bees

You don’t have to be a champion of animal rights to care about bees dying out.

You just have to like food.

Bees can survive on the despised dandelion.

Bees aren’t the only pollinators out there. But they are, by far, the most efficient.

This is a swarm of honey bees. They make it so we can eat food. Cherish them.

Let’s put it this way. If bees all die, we can quit worrying about climate change. We’ll starve to death before the permafrost melts.

The catastrophic decline in bee populations doesn’t make headlines anywhere near often enough. It’s not sexy news.

But while we pant after Lady Gaga’s latest outrage, the boring farms that feed us draw closer to peril.

It’s now a common thing for farms to rent bees, which get trucked in from elsewhere. Without these mercenary pollinators, crops would fail.

Scientists point to pesticides as an obvious reason why bees are dying. But the pesticide industry got busy and pointed back at the varroa mite.

Yeah, we know it’s really the pesticides.

While competing interests fiddle, we may want to consider the easiest things we can do to save bees. They are:

  1. Put down the bug and weed killers. The one kills bees, the other kills bee food. You can save money and go to heaven by leaving the poisons on the shelf at Walmart.
  2. Leave your dandelions alone. Bees don’t get enough nutrients from dandelions alone. But this sturdy and abundant little weed often saves bees from starvation while they are looking for a richer meal.
  3. Learn to identify honey bees and bumblebees. Bumblers are more or less unmistakable. Honey bees can be confused with wasps. But a few seconds spent looking at a photo of honey bees will show you what to look for.
  4. Where you see bees in your yard, don’t mow. Bees latch on tight to any steady source of nutrients. They love milkweed, goldenrod, pokeweed, and wild clover. Learn to love the weed. And know that, in other parts of the world, people prize that weed that you take for granted or despise. If you can’t give up your whole yard to bees, at least set aside a corner or fence buffer.
  5. Plant sunflowers. They’re delicious to bees, and they make your yard gorgeous.
Bees can easily locate a sunflower, and the big petals make it easy to feed from.

Disposable cups: How are they still a thing?

If you’ve ever waged a one-person war on disposable cups, you know how frustrating and lonely it can be.

Around twenty years ago, when I was trying for zero waste, I bought a rather expensive metal mug at Krispy Kreme Donuts because I was getting my daily morning coffee from that chain.

The next day, when I presented the mug and asked the server to put my coffee in there, she refused, saying that all Krispy Kreme coffee had to be served in paper cups. I pointed out that it was a Krispy Kreme mug that I had bought at that location.

She knew. It just didn’t bother her.

Only partially daunted, I made several more attempts to get my coffee put into the metal mug. One server first poured it into a cup and then decanted it in the mug.

Even at that time, Dunkin’ Donuts probably had some corporate policy about letting people use real mugs and eschew the paper ones, but these policies often don’t make it down to the store level.

On numerous other occasions, I have made store clerks and cashiers angry by refusing bags or insisting on putting items in my back pack.

The words, “No bag!” and “I don’t need a bag” hollered directly at someone picking up my items for purchase often falls on deaf ears. Or it has to be repeated–which amazes me.

Am I really the first person at Walgreens ever to refuse a bag for one item?

Considering the on-the-ground resistance to reducing pointless, conspicuously immoral waste products, I decided to do some new research. Maybe disposable cups aren’t really the ecological disaster that I think they are.

Sadly, that’s not true. According to the Huffpost, Starbucks alone is destroying forests at the rate of 8000 paper cups a minute. And, if you’re thinking that paper cups could be recycled into other paper products, guess again. Many such cups are coated with polyethylene, a chemical that makes recycling difficult, if not impossible in most places.

Paper cups were supposed to be an improvement on styrene foam (colloquially known as styrofoam) which has been proven to kill marine animals and is suspected of contributing to cancer in humans.

A writer at the Boston Globe notes that neither cup is really recyclable.

Right about now, you might be asking how this is an animal rights issue. In the case of styrene foam, it’s more obvious. Surely, you’ve heard that turtles and diving birds ingest small amounts of this trash and it poisons them.

But let’s circle back to the thousands of trees that are destroyed to make paper cups. That’s a huge loss of trees. And mature trees are almost never alone. They are homes to animals. Most birds need trees to nest in. The destruction of one tree at mating season can destroy dozens of baby birds and bird eggs.

So, what is the solution?

The most obvious thing to do is make and drink your own coffee at home–without using a K-cup because K-cups are landfill mongers–and compost the filter.

But going out for coffee is an emotional or social ritual for millions of people. Are they doomed to participate in deforestation every day?

Not where coffee chains have voluntarily figured out ways to reduce waste. Europe, New Zealand, and Canada are getting way ahead of the United States on this initiative.

What you can do

All is not lost, even in the U.S. Starbucks lets customers buy $2 reusable cups. Then customers receive a small discount when they use them. The company does this in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

So, if you’re a Starbucks addict, this is the obvious thing to do. If you’ve been getting coffee in paper cups from another chain, switch to Starbucks and use their reusable mugs and get the discount.

If you’re not addicted to chain coffee, patronizing a local coffee shop may allow you the luxury of sitting down with a ceramic mug of coffee. Imagine that!

Or you can start a local initiative to ban paper cups in your town. Start out at city hall.

Last, but not least, you could buy an espresso maker at your local Goodwill or Habitat Restore and learn to make really delicious coffee at home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But I didn’t mean to kill those thousand birds! So that’s okay, then

Trumps tramples the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

United States President Donald Trump and his regime are attacking one of the most sacred laws protecting wildlife: the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

As you should know, migration is a risky venture. Migratory birds undertake it because they have specific ideas about where to raise their families. If you were born in the crevice of a sheer rock face, you can’t imagine any place else to make a nest.

Migrating to the arctic, incidentally, is one way some bird species are surviving. Birds who raise the next generation in the most hostile habitats have less to fear from humans and their destructive sprawl.

Some birds travel thousands of miles, and their journeys are epic. Bar-headed geese fly in the thin air five miles above the ocean. Hummingbirds, by contrast, clear the Gulf of Mexico, avoiding headwinds by flying dangerously low and risking death by drowning. Only one fourth of newborn hummingbirds will survive the journey.

Despite their bad reputations as squatters, many Canada geese still fly up to three thousand miles to the northernmost parts of North America.

To offer these intrepid travelers some kind of protection seems the least humans can do.

But the Trump regime has now reinterpreted the MBTA to mean that you can be fined only if you meant to kill the birds.

This leaves industries free to destroy birds with oil spills, construction, pesticides, tractors, concrete pours, chainsaws, and deforestation. At greatest risk appear to be ground nesters and waterfowl.

The whole point of the MBTA was to make businesses think before clear cutting or being careless with their emissions.

Of course it’s their fault if their actions kill birds. Every business and individual has the duty to anticipate unintended consequences and prevent them.

This unfortunate new interpretation of the decades-old protection means that many species of birds will head towards extinction on an accelerated basis.

What you can do

Please use this form to contact your local law makers and express concern about the disembowelment of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Get your solar panels now! While stockpiled supplies of Chinese panels last!

It may never be a better time to get solar panels for your home or business. Net metering has not gone away, and prescient solar installers still have reserves of low-cost Chinese solar panels.

As Trump was signing his tariffs on Chinese solar panels into law, solar installers like ICON, located outside Cincinnati, were deliberately stockpiling the cheaper, foreign panels.

ICON System Designer Jaye Meier says he wouldn’t call it “stockpiling.”

“I’d call it smart business,” Meier says.

ICON estimates that the installed cost of solar panels will rise ten percent, once tariffs affect local distributors and installers.

Despite those tariffs, the immediate future for solar is so bright, we’re hearing a term we never thought we would hear: “solar investors.” Depending on your state and the amount of sun exposure on your roof, solar panels will actually make a modest return on investment for some purchasers.

Businesses, in particular, can benefit. A tax policy called MACRS (Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System) allows businesses to depreciate the cost of solar panels directly off their income over five years. Or, if it’s beneficial, a business can take one hundred percent of the costs off its one-year income, according to John Vann, a volunteer with Solarize Indiana.

Vann, himself, is getting his first installation of thirty solar panels. According to his calculations, they will pay for themselves over the next ten years. After that, “it’s free energy,” he says.

With incentives and a discount afforded by Solarize Indiana, his array will cost only $15,000.

You might not think of Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky as sunshine states, but ICON started up in 2011, serving just those three states, and business has doubled every year.

“We get more sun than Germany where half the energy is from renewable, says Meier, suggesting that going solar in the U.S. is, maybe, more about will than sunshine.

ICON’s clientele is diverse. They get their expected share of college professors wanting to do the right thing.

But, “It’s not one type of person that I’ve seen,” Meier says. “We’ve got farmers who hate the utilities, got screwed over by them once or twice.”

The Indiana legislature has not incentivized solar power. Instead the state legislature has ruled that it will phase out net metering over the next ten years. Net metering is a system which reimburses solar investors for the excess energy they create at a retail rate.

In Indiana and other states, net metering will be replaced or has already been replaced with “net billing” which reimburses the same investors at wholesale rate. Home owners who take the solar challenge count on net metering to defray the initial outlay for solar power which typically costs something like $20,000 for a full array on an average-size house.

So eliminating net metering hurts the growth of the solar industry. And Trump solar panel tariffs could hurt it some more when stockpiles of Chinese panels run dry.

So why did the use of solar power in Indiana increase twenty percent last year despite politicians at every level legislating against it?

It helps that the cost of solar panels, across the board has fallen eighty percent since 2009, Vann says. And groups like Solarize Indiana are stepping into the breach, securing deep discounts that make solar installations attractive despite disincentives.

“Long term it might be detrimental. But now it might push people into going solar before that [tariffs and loss of net metering] goes into effect,” says Meier.

 

 

Top Ten Animal Rights Issues

The top ten issues affecting the animal kingdom are:

1. Climate change

 

earth embroiled in climate change

Parched and flooded at the same time? Yes, it’s climate change.

Climate change is head and shoulders the top concern for animals. We are all familiar, by now, with the plight of the polar bear. But hundreds of animal species are at risk from changing weather. Climate change is not just warming the arctic home of polar bears and penguins. It has also depleted snow in areas where animals depend on their winter white fur to camouflage them against the white backdrop.

Climate change has fucked with animal migration. When the weather is inconsistent, birds and other migrators don’t know when to depart. Where climate change has disrupted breeding habitats, it has the potential to decimate an entire species in one generation.

 

 

What you can do: Drive a hybrid or all electric vehicle, limit travel, drive instead of flying when possible, ride a bike or walk to nearby destinations, eat fish and chicken instead of red meat. Eat vegetables instead of fish and chicken to the extent you are able. Insulate your house and lower your energy bills.

2. Suburban sprawl equals lost habitat

Some people would say that human overpopulation is the problem. But humans could have expanded their population while sharing space with animals. The problem is urban sprawl and development practices.

Instead of keeping the footprints of our houses small and building up instead of out, we chop down twenty trees just to build one McMansion. Then we pave half an acre for a driveway and parking pad.

Every time you chop down one mature tree, you are destroying the breeding habitat of twenty bird couples. Paving destroys any number of box turtles, lizards, and frogs.

What you can do: Limit your family to two children. If you are building your dream house, build it on two levels, take down only the trees you need to build, don’t put in a yard, create a white rock driveway and parking pad. Consider hiring a LEED certified builder to build your house to LEED standards.

3. Disastrous fishing practices

Albatross_hook

An albatross caught on a longline

Dragnet fishing, especially bottom trawling, is a disaster, plain and simple. It wipes out every animal in its path, including endangered turtles, whales, dolphins, and any number of other species that are not edible. Longline fishing also comes with a catastrophic by-catch of sea birds and turtles.

What you can do: Hook up with community-supported fisheries. Don’t buy any fish on the endangered list. This list changes frequently, so stay up to date on the most threatened fish species to inform your shopping choices.

4. Invasive species

Where invasive species have been introduced, they wipe out the local wildlife. The invaders eat all the food or they simply dine on the more fragile species that occupy that habitat by right.

The most dramatic example is the Asian carp that have taken over the Illinois river. They eat up all the plankton, leaving the native fish to starve to death. The fear is that they will take over the great lakes which is open to the Illinois river.

What you can do: Fish for carp and green mussels, and throw back all native species. If you like to hunt, kill and cook wild pigs.

5. Factory farming

Animal Rights Issues

There’s no getting around the fact that corporately farmed chickens are handled with extreme cruelty. They are confined to extremely small spaces, injected with hormones, and fed only on cheap grain. Many farmers cut off their beaks so they don’t peck each other to death.

chicken-1230969__340

But the evils of farming don’t end there. The methane produced by cows is a major contributor to climate change. The run off from farms pollutes waterways where it kills wildlife.

What you can do: Buy organic, free-range eggs and chickens. Buy your meat at farmer’s markets. Eat more veg and less meat, especially red meat.

nature-3276105__340

6. Feral cats and dogs

Overbreeding pets is a problem for the pets themselves and for the wildlife they destroy when they go wild and live outdoors. Dogs who run wild will kill everybody from turtles to baby alligators to frogs, lizards, and even birds. Cats do the same, and they’re particularly adept at killing birds.

What you can do: Spay and neuter your own animals. If you are feeding outdoor cats, take them to the vet and have them spayed or neutered. Make your cats indoor-only cats, and provide toys and other environmental enrichment to keep them happy.  If stray dog is terrorizing your neighborhood, ask the police to pick him up. If you find a friendly stray, take him to the vet, foster him, and then sell him to a good home on Craigslist.

7. Destroying predators

 

Eastern wolves used to roam the entire United States from the Atlantic coast to the mid-west. We have obliterated this species which is now only seen in remote parks of Canada. Eastern big cats, especially the panther, have also been decimated.

Taking out predators causes a collapse in the food chain which is devastating to other wildlife. For example, in Canada, hunters killed the wolves who were thinning the caribou herds, taking out the sick and diseased individuals. When the wolf population collapsed, the caribou population collapsed with it.

In the United States, taking out predators has meant that we are overrun with deer who, in turn, eat too much native vegetation. Other animals need that vegetation or they die of starvation.

What you can do: Don’t encourage fear mongering about a wolf, big cat, bear, or alligator that needs to share your neighborhood. Put up a fence to protect your children and pets. Encourage re-introduction of native wolves and big cats.

8. Pet euthanasia

 

According to the ASPCA, “Each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized.” That’s a lot of animals dying unnecessarily.

What you can do: Spay and neuter your own animals. If a dog or cat strays into your yard, take him to the vet and get him fixed. Train your pets to behave so that you don’t have to surrender them to a shelter. Try to purchase a rescue animal rather than go to a breeder. Don’t buy a dog from a pet store, unless it is a rescue animal.

9. Destruction and displacement of service animals

On the battlefield, dogs take bullets for their soldiers. They sniff out bombs for their soldiers and generally alert their men to dangers. They save thousands of lives.

Then these brave and loyal beasts are rounded up in trucks, and their men are likely never to see them again. Some of them are commandeered by high-ranking military guys who work in elegant offices all day and never have to face a moment’s danger. Others are euthanized, against the will of the men they fought with.

What you can do: Tell your state lawmakers that you demand better retirements for retired military and police dogs. When a soldier has applied to adopt a dog, that bond should be held sacred, and the adoption should take place immediately. Demand complete transparency on the fates of decommissioned military and police dogs. Demand therapy and re-training for dogs with PTSD.

10. Animal experiments

Many animal experiments entail needless suffering, and the aim of the research may well be unrelated to human welfare. For example, there was an experiment that involved sewing shut the eyes of kittens. The purpose of this experiment was to study the effect of sensory deprivation on the kitten brain.  Obviously, this has nothing to do with making sure heart surgery on children is done safely and successfully.

What you can do: Call your local university and ask them what animal experiments they are conducting. If they are pointlessly experimenting on animals, let the local media know about that.

 

 

 

Trump undermines solar power, but that hasn’t saved coal

Trump undermines solar power at the peril of us all.

By Lynn Hamilton

United States President Donald Trump has devastated the solar industry in America without bringing back coal jobs.

You may remember that Trump allied himself with coal during his run up to the presidency. And coal families gave him their unthinking votes.

This is personal for me because I live in Kentucky, and I taught for two years in eastern Kentucky. During that time, I received numerous papers from students about job loss in their families due to the failure of coal. The tone of these papers was always a mixture of victim mentality, nostalgia, and blame.

Trouble was: they didn’t always know who to blame. Former President Barack Obama figured as a convenient scapegoat because of his modest federal incentives for renewable energy. And his insistence that the coal industry moderate its damage to the environment. He gave sustainability a fighting chance, in other words.

Trump undermines solar power while coal miners die of black lung

black lung

But the real reason the coal industry is dying is the same reason whale oil went down as an industry: We’re running out of coal, just as we ran out of whales. Secondarily, both industries are far too dangerous to the front line workers, and

healthy lung

coal cannot be harvested without the same measure of cruelty as was exercised in the mass murder of whales. Just ask anyone whose community was devastated by mountain top removal. Ultimately, coal is an unsustainable

resource for energy.

We need to unmuddle some thinking here: Bashing solar has not brought back coal jobs and will not bring back coal jobs. Coal jobs have steadily declined since 2005. Trump undermines solar power at the peril of us all, because we are running out of coal without a plan B for keeping the lights on.

The national media has not come right out and said that the loss of ten thousand jobs in solar last year is the fault of Donald Trump, but to use a trope from John Oliver:

It is.

It totally is.

Solar companies, large and small, were already nervous when Trump was elected. The threat of tariffs shook the confidence of the industry until the reality of tariffs replaced it. The loss of federal incentives for energy improvements also played its part.

Let’s recap why this matters to animals, particularly wildlife. Coal burning causes carbon dioxide emissions which cause climate change. Climate change is the main reason for mass extinctions of wildlife. Climate change is the main reason that monarch butterflies are declining in numbers. Climate change, among other things, messes with migration. Birds and monarch butterflies can’t figure out when to migrate because weather patterns are so disrupted. Cool autumns whisper “Time to fly” to the hummingbird. When the fall comes with eighty degree temperatures in the Midwest, the birds get confused.

Solar energy disrupts climate change. It does not emit carbon dioxide, therefore it does not make climate change worse. When solar replaces coal, it has the potential to reverse the damaging effects of climate change which include wildlife loss.

Even if you don’t care about wildlife, you should care about solar energy and the solar industry. At least if you care about having your television and laptop turned on. We’re running out of coal without having smoothed the way for a replacement source of energy. This is what happens when you mythologize a fuel like coal instead of viewing it as something that was useful in its day.

 

 

Cloning: Primates yes; humans no

The big news today is that science has managed to clone monkeys. PETA’s stand is that cloning is a huge waste of resources and represents too much suffering on the way to getting it right.

However, cloning does, theoretically, have the potential to bring endangered species back from the brink of extinction.

Put another way, it’s possible that, by cloning endangered animals, we may be able to save a few species, once we have solved the problems of climate change that are driving animals extinct in the masses.

Today’s news headlines hint that human cloning is but a few short experimental steps away. Here at AnimalRightsChannel, we want to make an unequivocal statement: Nothing could be more immoral than cloning humans, and science should not ever attempt it.

For one thing, humans have no trouble reproducing themselves and often do so by accident. For another, our species threatens every other species on the planet. We invented climate change. Other animals are guiltless of that problem. Humans, not animals, invented air and water pollution. Humans, not animals, invented mono-cropping which threatens the world’s food supply.

So let’s not clone ourselves. Agreed?