Summer gardening tips for a great harvest

June 19, 2020 by  
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When the much-anticipated summer season finally arrives, make the most of your garden time with a checklist of ongoing tasks that will keep your plants healthy year-round. Clean up Much of your clean up might have taken place in the spring. However, if winter rolls straight into summer in your part of the country, or you haven’t had the time or motivation to tackle the task, get busy pulling weeds, mowing the lawn and cleaning the patio furniture. Avoid harsh chemicals and instead borrow a pressure washer to blast the deck, fencing, porch and paver stones. Also, tidy up any concrete blocks along your raised beds. Related: Where to order vegetable seeds online Continue to plant Again, your garden is probably well underway from your spring plantings. But in addition to monitoring the growth of your current plants, continue planting for late summer and fall crops. Plan to keep your garden producing by planting fall crops such as pumpkins and squash. Create a calendar for planting based on where you live and how long crops need until harvest. Use mulch Summer heat zaps moisture out of the soil, and many plants suffer without mulch to help them retain much-needed water. Check your trees, shrubs and flowering bulbs a few times each month and supplement the mulch as needed.  Plant bulbs Although spring and summer steal the show for flowering bulbs, the fall months can dazzle too if you think ahead. Use the warm days of late summer to plant bulbs such as autumn crocus, winter daffodil and Guernsey lily that will burst to life in the fall. Be sure to mark where you placed them, so you don’t plant over them. Install a timer Using water efficiently not only benefits your pocketbook and the planet’s resources, but it also results in better plant production. The best way to water where you need when you need is to use timers that automatically turn the system on and off. Timers can be used for complex underground sprinkler systems with several zones and also for simple drip systems for hanging baskets or berry patches.  Water  in the early morning or late evening, when temperatures are cool and evaporation is less likely. Make sure to turn the timers off when rain is in the forecast. Prune and deadhead As plants continue to thrive throughout the season, they’ll benefit from a trim here and there. Identify plants that bloom early winter to late spring and prune them back during the summer. Deadhead current blooming plants as blossoms die off; this diverts the energy away from spent blooms and towards active ones.  Support your plants Early in the season, get cages around your brambling plants, such as raspberries and tomatoes . Other plants also need support as they grow, including bush beans, snap peas and flowers like delphinium. Check on your plants at least every other day to keep them in line.  Train them to climb Summer is also a productive season for your climbers, and without training, they may grow to undesirable places within or even outside your yard. Keep up with your hops, grapes, clematis and wisteria, guiding them up trellises or along wires as they reach new heights. Close the buffet for animals Your garden full of flowers or fruits is a tempting invitation for the neighborhood  animals . Summer is the time to protect your plants against critters large and small. Put up fencing around your food garden and make sure it is tall enough that deer can’t jump over it. Inside your garden, further protect plants from smaller animals that may squeeze in, such as rabbits and chipmunks. To protect against the smallest of hungry animals, keep ladybugs around to feed on aphids, move old plants to another area of the yard, use natural insecticides and place short, open cans or cups of beer nearby to draw in slugs. You can also use netting over the top of your crops to keep birds from having a free meal at the plant buffet. Feed your plants Even after your plants are well established, most need a little boost now and then to keep up energy for production. Around midseason, provide your plants with some fertilizer to help them out.  Turn your harvest into a meal plan Growing a garden can take a lot of work and money, so you don’t want your resulting harvest to go to waste. The best way to use up fresh vegetables is to plan for their arrival. You can add the tops of radishes, beets and carrots to pesto, which can be eaten fresh or frozen/canned for later. Plan to use your lettuce promptly after harvest with myriad salad options that can incorporate your carrots, beets, snow peas, broccoli, strawberries and more. The point is, as your garden produces various foods , create an upcoming meal plan to match.  Protect wood products Summer is also the time to restain fencing and decking. Apply a fresh coat of paint or stain to furniture and the garden bench. Invite pollinators to the party Pollinators such as  bees, butterflies, birds  and bats can really benefit your yard, so as summer progresses, cater to their needs. Build and install bat, butterfly, bird and bee houses. Keep the bird feeders and baths clean and supplied. Finally, plan your seasonal garden flowers around those that attract your feathered and winged friends to the party.  Start a compost pile Anytime is a great time to start a compost pile. Still, the heat of summer can help the stratified material break down faster than it would during other seasons.  Set up rain barrels Even if you have rare summer rains, getting rain barrels set up now will give you ample water when the rains return. You can then use this to water plants, the lawn or even the animals. Check your state’s rainwater harvesting laws before getting started, though. Preserve your harvest Finally, preserving food is a quintessential part of summer. Rows of canning jars, a freezer full of fresh crops and the dehydrator working overtime all represent the fruits of your labor. Images via Pexels and Pixabay

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Why the private sector needs to invest in conservation agriculture right now

June 6, 2020 by  
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Why the private sector needs to invest in conservation agriculture right now William Ginn Sat, 06/06/2020 – 02:00 This is an excerpt from ” Valuing Nature ” by William J. Ginn. Copyright 2020 William J. Ginn. Reproduced here with permission from Island Press, Washington, D.C.  Resistance to change is universal. For example, despite more than 30 years of good science and best practices that support conservation agriculture in the United States, less than 5 percent of U.S. soy, wheat, and corn farmers use cover crops, and only 25 percent have adopted crop rotation and conservation tillage practices, even though the country is losing more than 10 billion tons of soil each year as well as more than $50 billion in social and environmental benefits. One challenge is the increasing percentage of farms owned by investors who lease land year to year to the highest bidder, which gives farmers little incentive to invest in conservation practices that might take years to be fully realized. Nevertheless, [The Nature Conservancy (TNC)], along with a consortium of farmers’ groups and a contingent of seed and fertilizer companies, has set a goal of getting half of the country’s wheat, soy, and corn crops into conservation tillage by [2025] (PDF). To achieve this goal, the same kind of incentives, extension services, and creative financial mechanisms being advocated for in the developing world are going to be needed in the United States too. Building capacity and providing patient capital at the farmer level is a big challenge; at NatureVest, it is referred to as the last-mile problem. Although big-picture interventions are often understood in theory, the capacity of farmers to implement these solutions on the ground is often quite limited. Nearly everywhere these challenges exist, we need to dramatically increase the number of intermediaries who can help farmers through the difficult but necessary transition to new cropping and livestock-raising systems. It is all high-risk business, and as such, it is not always successful. Several years ago, TNC entered into an agreement with an agricultural consulting company in Argentina with the objective of helping farmers improve sheep-grazing practices. Years of overgrazing had left the region’s grasslands substantially degraded; in fact, at one point in the early years of Patagonia’s colonization, more than 45 million sheep roamed free. Today, the region is home to between 5 million and 8 million sheep, but even that number may be too many. Building capacity and providing patient capital at the farmer level is a big challenge; at NatureVest, it is referred to as the last-mile problem. The restoration plan, called the Patagonia Grassland Regeneration and Sustainability Standard, or GRASS for short, incorporated conservation science, planning, and monitoring into the management plans of wool producers. The idea was not new: rather than grazing sheep in one place continually, they are moved in and out of different pastures depending on the conditions of the grasses. This practice encourages more diversity of native grass species and expanded yields from the revitalized pastures. Done well, ranchers, sheep, native plants, and animals can thrive together. But what motivates ranchers to make these investments in better management and fencing? The basic business idea of GRASS was to improve management practices on ranches and produce a certified wool product that would attract buyers willing to pay more for sustainably grown wool. The program attracted two early adopters, Patagonia, Inc ., a brand committed to sourcing their raw materials sustainably, and Stella McCartney , a high-end clothing manufacturer and daughter of Paul McCartney. Prior to this venture, both companies had been buying their wool primarily from Australia and New Zealand, but for Patagonia in particular, a shift to sourcing from Argentina provided a nice opportunity for alignment with their brand. Dozens of ranches signed up to participate, and many saw measurable yield improvements, even though the initial wool purchases were small. Despite the program’s early successes, the program became unraveled when the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released video footage of alleged animal abuse occurring at some of the ranches. As chief conservation officer of TNC at the time, I can say that I was not very happy with these practices, but I thought some of the allegations were overblown. For example, PETA considers docking tails of sheep to be inhumane, yet it is long-standing practice that arguably improves the health of animals. Nevertheless, both Patagonia and Stella McCartney abruptly ended their contracts with GRASS, and without a market partner, the program has failed to scale to a commercial model. Although any improvement in grazing is useful, the expected impact across the landscape now seems a distant objective. Because feeding the world is an absolute imperative, farmers, investors, and aid organizations continue their quests for new models of sustainable intensification that will both feed more people and restore the soils and hydrological systems that are essential to agriculture. Providing capital in a way that reaches the hundreds of millions of small farmers across the globe as well as the necessary skills and technical expertise is a challenge that will remain for years, but business opportunities abound. Our shared natural assets — soil, water, and a stable climate — will only increase in value as the world demands more food. Pull Quote Building capacity and providing patient capital at the farmer level is a big challenge; at NatureVest, it is referred to as the last-mile problem. Topics Corporate Strategy Food & Agriculture Biodiversity Books Food & Agriculture Conservation Conservation Finance Collective Insight GreenBiz Reads Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Flock of sheep in Patagonia, Chile. Shutterstock gg-foto Close Authorship

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U.S. rabbit populations contend with lethal virus, RHDV2

May 22, 2020 by  
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Wildlife  officials recently announced outbreaks of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Type 2 (RHDV2) ravaging Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and California. The  U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)  deems RHDV2 as seriously contagious and nearly always fatal amongst domestic and wild rabbit species and their close relatives, hares and pikas. RHDV2 is not zoonotic, so it won’t infect livestock, pets or humans, asserts the  California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) . Still,  Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPW)  advise against pets consuming rabbit carcasses. Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV) is the viral agent causing rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD).  Science Direct  says RHDV belongs in the calicivirus family, which infects many  animals  including pigs, cattle, cats and even humans. Norovirus, for example, is a human calicivirus. But humans seem unaffected by RHDV.  Related:  What’s causing the decline in monarch butterfly populations? There are two worrisome strains of RHDV — RHDV1 and RHDV2.  House Rabbit Society ,  Veterinary Practice , as well as both the Vaccine and Veterinary Research  journals document RHDV1 as first emerging in China back in 1984, when, in just one year, 140 million rabbits were decimated. China claims that the outbreak started in Angora rabbits imported from Europe. Eventually, RHDV1 spread to over 40 countries and hit the U.S. in 2000. Given its estimated 95% mortality rate, Australia and New Zealand notoriously introduced RHDV1 into their wild rabbit populations as pest biocontrol. RHDV1 mutated, begetting RHDV2, which was first identified in 2010 when domesticated rabbits in France showed clinical signs of RHD despite being already vaccinated against RHDV1. By September 2018, RHDV2 reached the U.S., manifesting among domestic rabbits in a rural Ohio farm, documents the  Veterinary Information Network (VIN) News Service . The USDA considers both RHDV1 and RHDV2 invasive pathogens, as they are not native to North America. A  joint paper  put forth by the Center for Food Security & Public Health , Institute for International Cooperation in Animal Biologics, Iowa State University, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the USDA revealed RHD can be difficult to eradicate. Not only can the virus strains survive over seven months on rabbit carcasses, but they also withstand temperatures below freezing and above 120 degrees Fahrenheit.  House Rabbit Society  cites several differences between RHDV1 and RHDV2. Incubation is two to 10 days for RHDV1, but three to nine days for RHDV2. Rabbits with RHDV2 can be asymptomatic yet spread the virus for up to two months. There is no known cure for either strain. While a vaccine exists for RHDV1, there are currently no USDA -licensed vaccines for RHDV2. That RHDV2 can “potentially surviv[e] more than 3 months without a host” has prompted some U.S. veterinarians to import RHDV2 vaccines despite a convoluted process. The  USDA  and  VIN News Service  warn RHD is highly contagious, spreading easily by direct contact with rabbit excretions and secretions — saliva, sweat and biowaste. Sharing food, water, bedding, fomites and vehicles spreads RHD. Other vectors are infected rabbit meat, pelts, even insects. Besides farmers and pet owners, biologists and  conservationists  are worried about this virus. As declining rabbit populations have repercussions in  habitat  food chains, RHDV2 could cause severe consequences down the line. + Veterinary Information Network (VIN) News Service Via USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and House Rabbit Society Images via Pexels

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Ancient Mayan-inspired Casa Merida operates off the grid in Mexico

May 22, 2020 by  
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In the hot and humid Yucatán capital of Mérida, blasting air conditioning all day is commonly regarded as a necessity of life. But Mexico City-based Ludwig Godefroy Architecture has rebelled against this belief with its design of Casa Merida, a self-sufficient dwelling that uses passive solar principles to stay naturally cool. Sustainable in both energy use and design, the contemporary, solar-powered home draws references from traditional Mayan architecture and uses locally produced materials wherever possible. Built primarily of board-formed concrete, Casa Merida is organized as a series of “broken” volumes that reads as an 80-meter-long rectangle with 8-meter-wide sections. This lane-like form was created to follow traditional airflow cooling concepts and to evoke the ancient Mayan sacbé , a term that translates to “white path” and describes stone walkways covered in white limestone. All parts of the home open up to the outdoors via large wooden louver doors that let in cooling breezes, natural light and views of green courtyards interspersed throughout the property. Related: This modular, off-grid design can adapt to any landscape The indoor-outdoor connection is key in the design of the home, which was crafted to feel completely disconnected from the city. This is achieved by placing the communal areas — including the living room, kitchen and swimming pool — at the far end and quietest part of the property instead of placing them near the backyard. The backyard is used as a buffer zone from the urban environment. To help the home meet goals of self sufficiency, the architects installed rainwater collection systems with sculptural water collectors that add to the beauty of the residence. A biodigester is used to treat blackwater, which is then used to irrigate the garden. Heating and all of the home’s electricity needs are provided for via solar hot water heaters and solar panels. “The construction is reaching a 90% made on-site, with local materials and built exclusively by Yucatec masons and carpenters, a sort of modern reinterpretation of what could mean vernacular architecture,” the architects said. “Made of massive materials that do not require special treatments or maintenance, accepting aging and time as part of the architecture process, the house has been conceptualized to end up one day covered by a new coat of materiality: a layer of patina.” + Ludwig Godefroy Architecture Photography by Rory Gardiner via Ludwig Godefroy Architecture

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Ancient Mayan-inspired Casa Merida operates off the grid in Mexico

Invasive "murder hornets" arrive in US, threaten honeybees

May 7, 2020 by  
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If you’ve been itching to get back to the outside world, two words might make you think again: murder hornets. For the first time, these gigantic, invasive hornets have been spotted in the U.S., which could be a problem for both humans and honeybees . The Washington State Department of Agriculture verified four sightings of Vespa mandarinia — the official name for the Asian giant hornet — last December. But after The New York Times recently reported on them, murder hornets have moved into the limelight. Related: How to live harmoniously with bees and wasps The black-and-yellow hornets measure up to two inches long and have bulging eyes. “They’re like something out of a monster cartoon with this huge yellow-orange face,” said Susan Cobey, bee breeder at Washington State University’s (WSU) Department of Entomology. “It’s a shockingly large hornet,” Todd Murray, WSU Extension entomologist and invasive species specialist, said. “It’s a health hazard, and more importantly, a significant predator of honeybees.” The hornets are native to the forests and mountains of eastern and southeast Asia, where they feast on large insects . One of their favorite foods is the European honeybee. Scientists in Washington worry that if the hornets spread, they could decimate the state’s honeybees, which farmers rely on to pollinate apple and cherry crops. Invasive species like murder hornets can permanently alter an ecosystem. “Just like that, it’s forever different,” Murray said. “We need to teach people how to recognize and identify this hornet while populations are small, so that we can eradicate it while we still have a chance.” WSU and the state agriculture department are working with beekeepers and volunteers to locate the enormous hornets before they become too active again. April is the month when queens usually emerge from hibernation, so the hornets are just getting started. Obviously, the consequences will be devastating if these creatures manage to spread across the country. While humans are not the hornets’ typical target, the hornets will attack anything if they feel threatened. When a group of hornets attack, they can inject as much venom as a snake bite. Murder hornets kill up to 50 people in Japan every year. + Washington State University Image via LiCheng Shih

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Climate change could lead to dramatic decline in narwhals

May 6, 2020 by  
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Climate change is affecting everybody, even narwhals. These mysterious “unicorns of the sea” may decline by 25% by the end of this century, according to a new study . Narwhals are a type of Arctic-dwelling whale found only in the cold waters of Greenland, Canada, Norway and Russia. Their population currently numbers about 200,000. In winter, most narwhals spend up to 5 months beneath the sea ice. They are recognizable by a single long, spiral tusk, which is actually an enlarged tooth. Related: Arctic shipping routes could threaten “unicorns of the sea” Researchers from Denmark, Canada, Norway, Germany and the U.K. studied tissue samples from 121 narwhals, mostly collected between 1982 and 2012. Some were killed by Inuit hunters in Greenland and Canada. Other samples came from archaeological remains from digs in Russia and northern Europe. Researchers were even able to collect tiny samples from a throne chair featuring narwhal tusks in Denmark. “They had special access to be able to drill little tiny bits of tusk from that throne,” said Steven Ferguson, an Arctic marine mammal research scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and one of the study’s authors. These samples helped them learn more about narwhal DNA. Through a combination of DNA information and habitat modeling, the researchers investigated the impact of previous climate shifts on narwhal distribution and estimated what the future might hold for these creatures. Scientists confirmed that the world has three narwhal populations. Most live in two different groups off Canada’s northeastern coasts. The third population of about 10,000 lives off Greenland’s east coast, extending as far as Russia. The researchers were surprised to find that narwhals show the lowest genetic diversity in any marine mammal studied. They weren’t sure why this is. As sea ice melts because of global warming , the narwhals’ habitats will shrink, and the animals will probably move northward. But as they are crowded into a smaller habitat, they’ll become more vulnerable to human encroachment, competition for food, new diseases and orca predation. Unlike other polar mammals, narwhals are only found in very limited locales. “They really seem to have this Atlantic Ocean habitat,” Ferguson said. “So there’s an open question as to what might happen as we continue to lose sea ice.” + Royal Society Publishing Via Forbes and The Narwhal

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Climate change could lead to dramatic decline in narwhals

Half-buried home in Brazil is crafted from rammed earth

May 6, 2020 by  
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On a windswept hill a three-hour drive from São Paulo, Brazilian architecture firm Arquipélago Arquitetos has completed the House in Cunha, a low-lying, contemporary home that is primarily built of locally sourced rammed earth. To protect the building from the cold, prevailing winds, the architects partly buried the structure into the earth and repurposed the excavated soil as construction material for the building walls. The thick, earthen walls and the building’s sunken position also provide the benefit of thermal mass to help maintain comfortable and stable interior temperatures year-round. The design for House in Cunha takes inspiration from the surrounding landscape and the region’s traditional culture for ceramic crafts. Set atop a hill, the building is oriented for optimal views of the Mantiqueira Mountains, while its low-lying profile and rammed earth construction help blend it into the landscape. Related: Inspiring rammed earth hospital brings affordable care to rural Nepal The main walls of the home were constructed of rammed earth via a building technique that allows for easy assembly and disassembly. “All the characteristics of hardness, thermal inertia, color, brightness and tactile quality are factors due to the physical and chemical characteristics of that specific soil,” the architects noted. In addition to rammed earth construction, architects also used a local pottery technique to create straw-colored bricks for the remaining walls. Despite its use of traditional materials and construction techniques, the House in Cunha features a minimalist and contemporary design. The main living areas face north to take advantage of winter sunlight and open up to an L-shaped outdoor deck sheltered by deep roof overhangs. Large windows bring panoramic views and ample natural light indoors, while a mix of timber surfaces and brightly colored furnishings help create a cozy and welcoming atmosphere. The home also includes three bedrooms and two baths; the bedrooms face the northwest and also open up to the outdoor deck. + Arquipélago Arquitetos Photography by Federico Cairoli via Arquipélago Arquitetos

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Half-buried home in Brazil is crafted from rammed earth

While humans are away, Yosemite bears come out to play

April 20, 2020 by  
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It’s been nearly a month since the spreading coronavirus prompted Yosemite National Park’s closure on March 20, and resident black bears are making the most of it. Last year, 4.42 million people visited Yosemite. This year, it’s a bear’s world. “For the most part, I think [the bears] are having a party,” said wildlife biologist Katie Patrick, according to EcoWatch . “This time of year is difficult for the animals here. There can be literally walls of cars, stop-and-go traffic, or people in the park .” Related: Tour 5 national parks from home Patrick, better known as Ranger Katie, works in Yosemite’s human-bear management program, which aims to mitigate interspecies conflict. She recently hosted a Facebook Live talk about her work as a bear biologist. “You would think that with Yosemite being the size of Rhode Island, there would be enough elbow room for everybody, bears and humans alike,” she said in the Facebook video . “But actually, visitation tends to be concentrated in specific areas of the park that tend to be really good habitat for bears, too.” Humans prize the waterfalls, the river and the beautiful vistas of Yosemite Valley. Bears prefer the same landscape for different reasons, many of them food-related, such as the fruits and berries that grow by the river in the summer and the oak woodlands that become heavy with fall acorns. Yosemite black bear climbing a tree Yosemite National Park is home to about 300-500 black bears. Though there hasn't been an increase in their population since the park closure, bears have been seen more frequently than usual, likely due to the absence of visitors in Yosemite Valley.If you tuned into our livestream yesterday, wildlife biologist Ranger Katie showed us how Yosemite's bear team uses radio collars to track some of the park's bears, and we picked up the signal of a large male bear in the meadow nearby! Shortly afterward, that same bear was caught on camera by one of our volunteers, who watched from the window of the Rangers' Club as it climbed up a nearby tree. The bear sat high on a branch for a little while and then struggled to decide how to safely get back down, making this one of the more entertaining wildlife sightings we've had this spring!Check out yesterday's livestream to learn more about Yosemite's black bears and how we can all help to keep them wild: https://www.facebook.com/YosemiteNPS/videos/664884761011559/You can also find information about protecting Yosemite's iconic bears at www.KeepBearsWild.org Posted by Yosemite National Park on Monday, April 13, 2020 “So really, it’s paradise for humans and bears,” Ranger Katie said. For now, bears and other wildlife have the park mostly to themselves. Adult male black bears usually weigh about 250 pounds, while females weigh 150. Confusingly, black bears are usually brown and sometimes even blond. Approximately 300 to 500 bears live in Yosemite. A worker at Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel told the Los Angeles Times that in addition to seeing far more bears since the park’s closure, coyotes and bobcats are also coming closer to staff living quarters. While it’s nice for the bears to have such a relaxed springtime with few humans and cars, Ranger Katie doesn’t want them to get too comfortable. It could be a problem when humans return post-pandemic and the two species have to divvy up paradise again. Via EcoWatch and Los Angeles Times Image via Hillary H.

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How to celebrate Earth Day virtually in 2020

April 17, 2020 by  
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With social distancing in full force this Earth Day , the 50th anniversary of this environmental movement is certainly one for the history books. Just because you can’t go outside in large groups this year doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of inventive ways to celebrate Earth, though. The Earth Day 2020 theme is “climate action,” and while we aren’t able to come together physically this year, technology is presenting some unique opportunities to show your love for the Earth virtually. Learn the history The first Earth Day took place on April 22, 1970, when 20 million Americans (about 10% of the U.S. population at that time) took to the streets and college campuses to protest environmental ignorance and promote environmental awareness. The movement, now recognized as the world’s largest civic event each year, launched the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts. Related: How Earth Day began and how it helps the planet Take a virtual tour Because many of us are now homeschooling kids, Google has created 360-degree tours of 113 different national park sites, including monuments, historic sites and shorelines. The Nature Conservancy also features a series of virtual field trips designed for grades 5-8. Live webcams have also gained popularity since social distancing began. People may be staying indoors for the most part, but animals are still keeping up with their daily routines. Check out live feeds of marine animals at Monterey Bay Aquarium or a series of different feeds, from remote locations throughout Africa to rescue animal facilities around the world, with Explore.org . Earthx , in partnership with National Geographic, is streaming everything from speaker series to film festivals to student activities via its website. Participate in a running challenge A healthy running challenge that raises awareness for the environment is a win-win to celebrate this year’s Earth Day. The 2020 Earth Day Run presented by The Virtual Run Challenge encourages participants to spend the month of April (though you can start anytime) to collectively run the distance of the equator — 24,901 miles. Log your running and walking miles every day and connect with others for a common goal; participation is free. Related: Orca Running offers a Social Distance Run Virtual Strides is celebrating Earth Day by hosting the 5K/10K/Half-Marathon Earth Run virtually. After runners (or walkers) finish their course, they can upload results and photos to the website. Registration isn’t free, but a portion of the proceeds from the race (around $4 from each registration) will be donated to EarthShare, a non-profit that supports critical environmental causes. In the past, the organization has raised more than $300 million for programs benefiting air, land, water, wildlife and public health. Download the Earth Challenge 2020 app By downloading the Earth Challenge 2020 app , you’ll help gather critical environmental data near your area, providing scientists and other “citizen scientists” with research to help maintain a cleaner planet. Users measure air quality and plastic pollution where they are and add each reading to a global database. Related: Earth Day 2020 goes digital For example, Earth Challenge 2020 launched its monarch butterfly project on April 1 with a goal to fill 1 billion data points before the month’s end. When users launch the app, they are able to snap pictures of insects that they see, submit them to be verified and allow scientists to better understand the distribution of butterflies and migration patterns. This kind of knowledge is essential to identify the different regions that need habitat restoration. Take action From April 20 to April 25, more than 100 speakers from five continents will participate in the largest online climate conference ever held to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Topics ranging from climate finance and agriculture to circular economy and politics will be discussed and can be viewed virtually via the partnership program We Don’t Have Time . Sign up with the official Earth Day website volunteer database for the latest resources and information on at-home or online activities as well as ways to spread the word to your friends. You can also create your own “act of green” and share it with the rest of the Earth Day community. The official Earth Day website also has a planning guide to help get people inspired and organized; check the map for ideas and to see how other people around the world are celebrating. Spread the word Digital tools are making it easier than ever to connect, especially through social media. You can bring your friends, teachers and family together to raise awareness and do their own part for the environment. Utilize Vote Earth to take the pledge to vote for climate candidates . The global initiative has already mobilized millions of people who wish to show their concern for the Earth and demand change at the polls. Sign up on the website to pledge to vote for candidates who support sustainability in your next election, and you’ll have the option to receive automatic email reminders to vote. + Earth Day Images via Carl Heyerdahl , University of Michigan School of Environment and Sustainability , Arek Adeoye , U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region

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Fostering and adopting pets during the pandemic

April 13, 2020 by  
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As COVID-19 sweeps the U.S., animal shelters have seen an upswing of interest as more animal lovers adopt or foster pets. While some people don’t want to add to the chaos of a quarantined household, others recognize this as a perfect time to bring home a furry friend. “I think it’s particularly timely because of the isolation of people,” said Nat Hardy, founding dean of Arts & Humanities at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. He recently adopted Buddy Twain from a Hannibal, Missouri shelter. Buddy’s surname honors Mark Twain, also from Hannibal. “Being closed in, you’ve got the time to bond. You have more patience and the time to do it.” Related: 7 ways to be a sustainable pet owner The pandemic has caused a spike in both animal adoptions and fosters, in part due to shelters sending out desperate emails asking people to step up and help these homeless pets. And the public responded. A recent call for emergency fosters by the Animal Care Centers of New York City received more 3,500 applications. The Humane Society of the U.S. has asked that states declare animal shelters essential services, but governmental response has varied and many shelters have temporarily closed. Others have drastically scaled back on services. Some employees have even made emergency plans to shelter in place inside the animal shelters, if necessary, for up to a month, to care for the pets. So every animal safely placed in a private home is one fewer for shelter workers to worry about. Adopting vs. fostering While adopting is forever, fostering means providing a temporary home for a shelter animal. “Fostering helps animals who are not yet ready for adoption have a home environment to heal and grow,” said Laura Klink, public information manager at the Oregon Humane Society. “During the current pandemic, fostering is even more critical as many shelters have stopped adoptions and have limited staff to care for the animals. At OHS, foster parents are helping some of our pets who need medical care , behavior help and to free up space in the shelter so we can be ready to respond to our community’s needs.” For people suddenly quarantined at home, fostering can be a wonderful way to help give stressed animals a break from noisy shelters. It makes sense to foster rather than adopt if the pandemic has brought your life to a sudden halt. Those who usually work 12-hour days in an office might be suited to fostering while working at home. If you can’t commit long-term, consider fostering rather than adopting; shelters don’t want to see a huge surge in post-pandemic returns of adopted pets . What does it take to be a good foster parent? Klink explained it is important to consider your environment. “Do you have other pets in the home?” she asked. “Are there young children in the home? Do you have a spare bedroom or bathroom where you can separate your foster pets?” You also need to ask yourself how comfortable you are managing medical and behavioral issues. Adoption by appointment Gone are the days — at least for now — of stopping by shelters and spending unhurried time with possible candidates for your new pet. Now, the shelters that remain open offer adoption by appointment. It’s more of a gamble to peruse online listings, pick a pet and make that fateful appointment, but sometimes it turns out to be a perfect match. Hardy had been thinking about adopting a dog anyway, since Stephens is such a pet-friendly campus, where both students and faculty bring their pets to school. With the quarantine looming, the emails from rescue shelters spurred him to action. He started looking online. “I finally found Buddy in a Hannibal Missouri rescue shelter. I saw his mug shot from the shelter, and he looked like quite a character.” He applied to adopt the orange dog — who he guesses might be a year or two old, and possibly a retriever/Irish setter mix — and made the 90-minute drive to Hannibal. “We’ve been together ever since. He doesn’t like me leaving out of his sight. I think he was in the shelter a long time. So now he’s totally living the dream.” Resources for fostering and adopting Foster families and individuals should have some experience with pet care. But even if you’ve had dogs and cats all of your life, you might need help. “Fostering is very rewarding but can also be challenging and stressful,” Klink said. “It’s important to ask for help and advice since you don’t know these animals like you know your own pets. Foster parents are truly a lifeline for shelter pets.” Whether you’re fostering or adopting a new pet into its forever home, you can find resources online. Petco Foundation , a national nonprofit animal welfare organization, offers educational livestreams from a team of experts. You can virtually attend a cat and kitten Q&A session, or help your new canine get into a happy routine with positive dog training. Petco Foundation even suggestions fashionable fosters to follow on Instagram. The ASPCA is another digital treasure trove with many pet care articles. Images via Tatiane Vasconcelos Taty , Fuzzy Rescue , Madeline Hardy and Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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Fostering and adopting pets during the pandemic

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