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.

By Joel Worth
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. Buy locally harvested honey. Bee keepers are the first line of defense of bee extinction. Supporting small-scale honey production ensures a good distribution of bee habitat.
Bees can easily locate a sunflower, and the big petals make it easy to feed from.

Vast majority Of Americans Support Endangered Species Act

Science Daily reports the vast majority of Americans support the Endangered Species Act despite increasing efforts to curtail it: Political and business interests don’t appear to align with the public’s view. Roughly four out of five Americans support the Endangered Species Act, and only one in 10 oppose it, found a survey of 1,287 Americans. Support has remained […]

via Vast majority Of Americans Support Endangered Species Act — Natural History Wanderings

Should the Ohio River be more polluted?

In a tucked away corner of Kentucky, on a recent Thursday night, several elected officials conducted a poorly publicized public hearing to discuss whether regulations that have protected the Ohio River from pollution should be “revised.”

The regulations under review have been in place since 1948 when all the states on the Ohio agreed, with various degrees of reluctance, to do something to protect the river.

The outcome of this uneasy agreement was ORSANCO, the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission. ORSANCO has, for the years since, regulated the amount of pollution that can be spewed into the Ohio.

Much to the frustration of the coal power plants that line the river, every few miles.

Has ORSANCO done a great job? Well, no. Many hearing participants noted at Thursday’s meeting that the Ohio is the most polluted river in the nation. That statistic is backed up, as of 2012, by research coming out of Pennsylvania.

But, all things being always relative, the Ohio is still not as bad as China’s Yangtze River which has gone yellow from chemical dumping, according to Jim O’Reilly, author of the Law of Fracking, who spoke at the Thursday night hearing.

O’Reilly noted that China is in the process of acquiring interests along the Ohio and that, if regulations are abandoned, “the Yangtze will be the model.”

Health issues

Speakers at the public hearing were largely indignant about threats to their drinking water and air quality. The contamination of Flint, Michigan’s drinking water was alluded to several times.

According to speaker Connie Mayle, “Five million people rely on the Ohio for their tap water.” Mayle also sensibly noted that it’s going to cost a lot of taxpayer dollars for states to reinvent the wheel and draft their own standards for the river.

Robin Blakeman asked “Why give up a system we know works” and “turn the Ohio River into cancer alley?”

But some of the most troubling testimony came from a gentleman who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Because there is no evidence of the illness anywhere in his family history, he suspects environmental causes.

“My only question is: Did I get it through the air, did I get it through the water? .  .  . What exactly caused this? . . . I don’t know. What I do know is that we should be increasing standards  . . .  not decreasing them,” he said.

Click here to see the video.

Open anger

Some speakers were openly angry with ORSANCO reps. John Blair, editor of ValleyWatch.net, went on record with these comments:

“I kept hearing the word ‘revision’ used by Mr. Heath and others tonight. Whenever you’re going to wholesale eliminate something, it’s kind of a platitude, isn’t it, to call it a ‘revision.'”

Linda Newman outright threatened the commission. “This is putting five million people’s lives at risk. This is abdicating your responsibility. If you go forward, members of the commission, with alternative two .  .  . there must be some way to sue you, collectively and individually, for putting our lives at risk. There must be some way to ask, ‘are you going to continue to meet and to pay yourselves and reimburse yourselves for your expenses while you overtly decide to do nothing, to not carry out your mission?’ This is an abdication of your appointed role. And, as citizens, we must hold you accountable.”

Click here to see the video.

Direct line to Donald Trump

Of course, it’s tempting to grumble and blame Donald Trump for everything, including things that take place at the micro-local level.

In this case, however, we can draw a tentative line between the Trump regime and ORSANCO’s willingness to give up on standards that have kept the Ohio somewhat safe for seventy years.

Trump’s now legendary disregard for environmental standards, even those that simply protect public health, have emboldened industry officials to demand that ORSANCO leave abandon its work and let states decide what happens to the Ohio on their watch.

Was it just a dog and pony show?

Several participants noted the absence of any industry leaders arguing on behalf of deregulation.

It makes some of us wonder if the public hearing was just a “dog and pony show,” staged to satisfy the formalities of a public hearing after the deal had already been sealed behind closed doors.

The hearing took place in the Holiday Inn of Erlanger, Kentucky, arguably a few stone throws away from Cincinnati, but not very convenient for most of the people who wanted to speak.

The nearness to the airport was, of course, a great convenience to the ORSANCO members who flew in for the hearing.

Several speakers said that a hearing should take place in Evansville, Indiana which has been hard hit by river pollution.

Also of interest was the size of room which was designed to accommodate about sixty people, and not even big enough to seat all the people who trekked for hours to that out of the way location.

VIP water

As the hearing swung into its third hour, ORSANCO representatives drank water from matching bottles, labeled “VIP” and presumably provided by the Holiday Inn, to those gentlemen only.

The rest of us drank water out of the tap. Presumably processed from the Ohio.

new bottles

What you can do

This is a public comment period, so please comment on or before August 10, 2018.

Email your comments to: PCS@orsanco.org.  Put comments in the body of the regular email. DO NOT ADD AN ATTACHMENT.

PLEASE PROVIDE YOUR FULL NAME AND YOUR FULL ADDRESS WITH YOUR COMMENTS. IF THESE ARE NOT INCLUDED, YOUR COMMENT WILL NOT BECOME PART OF THE RECORD.

Mailed comments should be addressed to: ORSANCO, 5735 Kellogg Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45230, Attn: PCS Comments.

 

 

What they will know from our trash

A thousand years from now, when aliens finally discover the husk of our planet, these are the things they will know about us from our garbage.

The wedding dress

The most important artifact in a woman’s life was her wedding dress. She spent days locating it, often commanding the time of friends and family in the search. She would then wear this dress once.

After that occasion, it would be carefully put away and stored in an air-conditioned temple, away from the bride’s home. These temples charged a monthly fee for the care of the dress, but temple priestesses stole a percentage of the dresses and sold them on a virtual platform called “Craigslist.”

Paper or plastic

There was a great debate about whether paper bags or plastic bags were more destructive of the planet, even though both contributed to the planet’s demise. The population became sharply divided into those who used disposable bags and art bags.

The art bags were carefully designed and crafted, durable bags made of fabric, often canvas, and sometimes string. Care was assigned to the colors and constructions of these bags, and some of them were even used to communicate life philosophies such as “Tread lightly” or “Leave only your footprints” or “Just say ‘neither.'”

Some people even created their own bags out of old clothing, especially an artifact called the “T-shirt.” These hand-crafted bags were highly regarded by their creators and sometimes given as gifts to the wrong people.

Everyone else used plastic bags which were, in general, used once and then discarded. These bags were often used to encase one item purchased from a store. While some store priestesses would ask customers whether they wanted a bag for one or two items, others dispensed the plastic bags with every purchase.

Some big store priestesses resented store pilgrims who brought art bags into big stores. If the pilgrim asked for “no bag,” the priestess would throw an unused plastic bag into the trash to register her disapproval of the art bag people.

Small, outdoor “farmers markets” emerged to give art bag people a place to shop where their bags were valued. Many people reviled these markets as “elitist” bastions of wealthy, bored white people.

Would you like some polystyrene with that coffee?

In the early twenty-first century, everyone knew how to make delicious coffee. There was an amazing array of coffee makers, from percolators to drip systems. Coffee could be made by the pot or by the cup. Arguments concerning the best coffee and the best way to make coffee took up a considerable amount of leisure time.

However, it was a sign of wealth and status to buy coffee away from home and receive it in a throwaway paper or polystyrene cup. Eventually, the production of these cups caused such wide spread deforestation that the earth’s oxygen crashed, killing three quarters of the people and wildlife.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cats inside; birds outside

In the war between wildlife experts and feral cat colony managers, we must side with wildlife.

By Joel Worth

I recently read a rather upsetting blog in which the writer says, “Let Cats Eat the Birds.”

Referring to wildlife advocate Jonathan Franzen, she writes, “The fuck??? All Franzen is doing here is saying ‘I like birds more than cats, so we should preserve them, even if it means killing cats.’ That has nothing to do with nature. You just picked the animal you like more.”

Um. Not sure it’s that simple. There’s this thing called “biodiversity” that some of us value, because we don’t want to live in a world with just two species.

Many cats, especially those that have packed on the happy fat from being loved and cared for, are content to sit in the garden, lazing in the sun, and doing no ecological damage.

Sadly, other individuals love to hunt and will kill, repeatedly, just for the pleasure of it. Do, sometime, read about Tibbles, the cat that decimated an entire species.

And there are stories about big cats in Australia that are descended from feral pet cats. Australians who run into them think they are black panthers. Scientists, who know better, say these cats got fat by preying on wildlife. The fact that these cats have supersized is not good news for anybody, not even your chihuahua.

Do cats really need to go outside?

Before you defend the notion that cats must run free, consider that the average life span of an outdoor cat is five years or so, whereas indoor cats can live to be twenty-five. If you are as emotionally dependent on your cats as I am, this is a no brainer.

I don’t care if my indoor only cats can’t fully express themselves as cats. I love them too much, so twenty-five years of being pampered, petted, and having the run of the house will just have to compensate for not going outside and getting fleas.

Outdoor cats are, of course, much more likely to get hit by a car, killed by a dog, or trapped in a crawl space. They are at risk of getting feline AIDS or feline leukemia. The vaccines against these diseases are only about eighty percent effective.

Should we support feral cat colonies?

Many kind-hearted people who love cats cannot resist supporting feral cat colonies with fundraisers and donations.

Unfortunately, these maintained colonies can wreak havoc on birds and other wildlife who have, unarguably, a better right to occupy the forest or plain than a domestic species whose numbers we have failed to control.

Feral cat colonists should be working to find every cat a home or a job, perhaps in a barn or field where the instinct to kill will be an asset.

The trap, neuter, release folks mean well, but they are mistaken in telling us that feral cats would rather live outside without human companionship. These cats were bred as our companions. And they most certainly can learn to love humans. It just takes some extra patience.

In fact, a cat who lives all his life without attaching to a human is not fulfilling his biological destiny.

Should we destroy feral cats?

I’m not going to dodge the above question. Yes, if all else fails, the cat should die (as humanely as possible) to save the birds.

However, there are a lot of things we can do to prevent that worst case scenario:

  • Yes, spay and neuter all outdoor cats. If they’re crossing your yard, you have every right to take them to the vet and have them fixed.
  • Keep your own cats inside, and encourage friends and family to do the same.

What we can do about feral cats

  • If you run a feral cat colony, slowly accustom the cats to your voice and your touch. This can be done by putting the food near you and making them approach you to get it.
  • Work with rescues to place your colony cats in homes of cat whisperers who will consider it a wonderful challenge to rehabilitate a wild cat. Contact farmers and gardeners about hiring feral cats to organically control rats and mice. If the cats are assigned in pairs, they will not be lonely.
  • If you cannot place all your feral cats, use smart collars to discover what they are doing. You might have two that are killing birds while the others have no ambition to do so. You can then prioritize getting the killing cats indoors.
  • See if you can find an indoor space for the cats to live. The basement of someone overrun with mice, for instance. An equipment storage space in a large company.
  • If you are determined to maintain an outdoor feral colony in an area shared by wildlife, please put belled collars on all the cats. This will give the birds a chance to escape. Eventually, the birds will learn to identify the sound of a cat approaching. And the cats will eventually learn that there’s no point in jumping a bird.

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.

Five myths about pitbulls

Delta Airlines recently ruled that they will not allow pitbulls on their flights, even as registered and trained service animals.

 

AnimalRightsChannel.com is certainly not the first, nor will it be the last, to point out the abuse inherent in this policy. So it seems like a good time to look at the five top myths about pitbulls.

Myth one: Pitbulls are the worst biters.

Actually, there are two metrics here: the number of bites and the damage typically done by the bite. Luckily, Canine Journal has compiled lists of the top biter in both categories.

At the top of the list of most frequent biters is the adorable chihuahua.

And, surprisingly, the pitbull is ninth on the list of biters who can really do a lot of damage for their size. The doberman, the German shepherd, and the seemingly harmless English mastiff are all more likely to require a hospital visit.

Myth two: Pitbulls were all bred by dog fighters and drug lords to be aggressive.

Unfortunately, there is some of that DNA in the mix of many, though not all, pitbulls. The breed was not originally cultivated for either fighting or guarding, however. The pitbull terrier was designed as a hunting dog. Specifically, hunters needed someone to latch onto their kills and hold them in one place until the hunter could get to the site and bag the prey.

In fact, NO pitbulls were ever bred to be hostile to people. Even a drug lord needs to control his dog, so he needs an obedient dog. We can assume that any drug lord or dog fighter who got bitten immediately discontinued the line of that dog.

Myth three: Any amateur can easily tell whether a dog is a pitbull.

Okay, you might think you know a pitbull when you see one, but, in fact, that dog is more likely to be a mix of different dog breeds. And the only way to really, really know the ancestry of that pooch is with a DNA test.

That’s why cities with anti-pitbull laws are so infuriating. They empower police men, with no veterinary qualifications, to make snap judgments about whether a dog is a pit.

That’s why you read, from time to time, about a registered dog being sent to the gas chamber, even though his owners have blue chip documents to prove that he’s not a pitbull. What the vet or a dog expert says your dog is will not save your dog. An unqualified police officer will decide whether your dog is a pit or another dog.

It is also worth noting that the Staffordshire terrier, a separate breed of dog, according to the American Kennel Club, looks identical to the pitbull.

Myth four: Pitbulls have become cool enough

It’s true that pitbulls have more advocates and saviors than ever before. That said, they are also about the only abandoned dogs that routinely get gassed in animal control facilities. About the only other dogs that still get euthanized, for no good reason, are old, sick, and disabled animals. Pitbulls are still the most unpopular pooch at the prom.

Myth five: Pitbulls don’t have the temperament to be good service dogs.

A quick search for “pitbull service dogs” on Google images yields literally thousands of pictures of pitbulls in service vests.

Pitbulls are particularly good at soothing and providing skilled companionship to disabled veterans and veterans suffering from PTSD.

“Pits for patriots” is but one of the many organizations that matches pitbulls to the veterans who need them. The pitbull is the undisputed champion in this arena of service.

In discriminating against pitbull service dogs, Delta is introducing one more hardship into the lives of veterans.

It is true that service animals are carefully chosen, raised, and screened for service. Only a small percentage of puppies evaluated meet the criteria for service dogs.

Even so, many of those puppies do not pass the rigorous training that requires them to demonstrate, definitively, that they will sacrifice their own lives to save humans.

Many beagles, Labrador retrievers, and poodles will fail to become service dogs. And many pitbulls will fail also. But, at the end of the day, all dogs are individuals. And their individual character, not their breed, predicts whether they have the loyalty and bravery to be service dogs.