Monarch butterfly population declines due to climate change and logging

March 3, 2021 by  
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A new  report by the World Wildlife Fund  in association with the government of Mexico shows that there is a drastic decline in the number of monarch butterflies hibernating in Mexico. The report indicates that the number of butterflies had reduced by 26% in December 2020 compared to the same month in 2019. Monarch butterflies are among the most beautiful migratory insects in the world. Every fall, they treat people in the U.S. and Mexico to a stunning show as they migrate to Mexico to hibernate for the winter. Unfortunately, logging in Mexico and some climate factors have dealt a blow to their population. Related: What’s causing the decline in monarch butterfly populations The report shows that the butterflies occupied nearly 7 acres in their hibernation ground in Mexico in 2019. In 2020, the monarchs only occupied about 5.1 acres of forested land. According to Jorge Rickards, Director-General of WWF Mexico, the migration of the butterflies across two countries shows how collaboration is necessary for their conservation . “Monarch butterflies show us how individual work, in this case, migration, can become an exceptional collaborative exercise, when all these migrants gather in the forests to hibernate together and buffer the climate,” Rickards said. The report has linked the decline in numbers of monarch butterflies with deforestation . The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, which is the major hibernation area, lost four times more trees in 2020 than it did in 2019. While natural events, such as wind and drought, have contributed to tree loss, the decline in trees is also attributed to logging and pest-control activities. The report indicates that such tree losses have hindered monarch butterflies’ reproduction and have also interfered with their migration patterns. “This limited the reproduction of the Monarch population, with an impact on the migrant generation, reducing the population of this insect throughout North America and leading to a smaller population occupying the Mexican forests during its hibernation,” the report says. In the U.S., monarch butterflies are on the brink of being classified as an endangered species . If the species is not protected, the world is likely to lose the only known two-way migration butterflies. According to WWF, they travel up to  2,800 miles  in a year to spend winter months in Mexico. + WWF Via CBS Image via Ulrike Leone

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Volunteers brave winter storm to save cold-stunned sea turtles

February 19, 2021 by  
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While the brutal winter storms across the U.S. are difficult for humans, they also put wildlife at risk, particularly cold-blooded reptiles, like sea turtles . Fortunately, instead of staying home and trying to keep warm during massive power outages, volunteers in coastal Texas are braving stormy waters and cold weather by boat or on foot to haul in cold-stunned sea turtles. Sea Turtle, Inc. is overseeing this massive rescue, which has saved over 4,500 sea turtles since last Sunday. The conservation nonprofit is getting creative to house all these turtles. About 500 are in bins in the organization’s own facility. The other 4,000 are currently residing at the South Padre Island Convention Center. Instead of the center’s usual business trade show or convention crowd, it is hosting sea turtles in a wall-to-wall array of kiddie pools, boxes and tarps. Perhaps the most impressive turtle rescued so far weighs 400 pounds and is about 150 years old. Related: Climate change pushes US weather to extremes “The love and support of people who just want to help things that can’t help themselves is overwhelming,” said Wendy Knight, executive director of Sea Turtle, Inc. In addition to individual volunteers , local government-built turtle storage platforms and SpaceX, which has a nearby launch site, provided something really special. “Like a ray from heaven, yesterday at 7:30 p.m. the site director and operations manager for SpaceX Boca Chica and two electricians and engineers from SpaceX showed up on our property with the largest generator I’ve ever seen,” Knight told NPR on Wednesday. With no end yet to the cold weather , the turtles will probably stay in the convention center at least until the weekend. If more turtles are rescued, a third storage facility will be necessary. Cold-blooded animals like turtles are especially vulnerable to weather extremes, as they are unable to regulate their body temperatures. Cold stun happens when water temperatures drop below 50°F. Suddenly, sea turtles find themselves unable to move and may become stranded or injured; they could even drown. Texas has five species of sea turtles, all of which are considered either threatened or endangered. + Sea Turtle, Inc. Via NPR Image via Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

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Take Your Kids on a Winter Nature Scavenger Hunt

February 15, 2021 by  
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Looking for a fun and healthy way to spend time … The post Take Your Kids on a Winter Nature Scavenger Hunt appeared first on Earth 911.

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Winter Reads: Books That Support Your Love of Nature

January 6, 2021 by  
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Spring and summer get all the love, but there’s plenty … The post Winter Reads: Books That Support Your Love of Nature appeared first on Earth 911.

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Welcoming Winter Wildlife

December 31, 2020 by  
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Watching butterflies and birds or spotting a rabbit contribute as … The post Welcoming Winter Wildlife appeared first on Earth 911.

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Save energy and money with these eco-friendly tips for winter

December 30, 2020 by  
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Whether winter conjures thoughts of cozy fires and hot cocoa or trudging through snow and ice on the way to work, it’s essential to have a plan for coping with the season in a sustainable way. Here are some tips to saving energy, water and money while staying toasty and warm all winter long. Heat and electricity bills Not only will the bills add up as you bump up the heat, but so does energy consumption. Create a more Earth-friendly indoor environment by keeping your heating and electrical costs down. Remember the basics, like unplugging chargers and small appliances when not in use. Put your holiday and winter lights on a timer. Turn out the lights when you leave the room. Related: 7 eco-friendly insulation alternatives for a green home Add layers of clothing before heading to the thermostat. Bundling up can save you a bundle in heating costs. Also invest in a digital thermostat and set it to a lower temperature at night and while you’re away during the day. A simple way to spin more warm air into the living space is to flip the switch on the side of your ceiling fans. When they spin clockwise, they push warm air from the top of the room to the bottom. To really improve energy efficiency in your space, consider additional insulation around door and window openings, such rolled towels or a draft snake under door cracks, and an added layer of eco-friendly insulation in the attic, walls or basement. Maintain your furnace. Regular maintenance results in better efficiency and longevity for your home’s heat source. It’s always important to regularly replace your furnace filter, but make it a priority during the winter when the appliance is blowing more often. Snow and ice Depending on where you live, snow and ice may be part of your daily routine or only appear on occasion. When they do, avoid the chemical-laden deicers; use natural kitty litter or sand instead. Skip the gas-powered and polluting snow blowers. Instead, use an electric snow blower. Better yet, get the family out for a good old-fashioned snow removal with shovels and brooms. Water Many people focus on water savings during the summer, but few emphasize it during the winter when we’re not watering lawns. However, winter brings bulkier clothing that results in more laundry, the temptation for long showers or baths on cold days and the potential for broken pipes.  Check your water consumption by setting a timer for the shower and only run the washing machine and dishwasher when they are full. Turn off the water supply and winterize the automatic sprinklers, AC units and RV plumbing. Recycle the water you do use by cooling the pot of water after cooking pasta or by collecting water in the shower. Use this to water indoor plants. For an added layer of efficiency, add a water recycling system to your house where the laundry or shower can provide water for the toilet. Take advantage of rainy weather by having those rain barrels ready to collect and store water you’ll be using in a few months. Compost By the time gardening season rolls around, the compost from last summer will be ready to use. But you can continue to build your compost pile throughout the winter, too. It won’t break down as quickly as it does in the hotter months, but there’s no reason to trash tree trimmings, leaves or food scraps. If your compost pile is inaccessible, you can at least collect food scraps in a container in the freezer to add to the pile later. Transportation Slick roads and dangerous driving conditions make winter the perfect time to rely on public transportation. Dust off the bus pass or start using the subway and let someone else do the driving while reducing air pollution from carbon emissions.  If public transportation isn’t an option, do your part by ensuring your car is maintained. Change your oil along with cabin and engine air filters. Replace spark plugs, hoses and fuel filters at recommended intervals. Ensure that your tires are properly inflated. The more efficiently your car functions, the less gas it will require and the less emissions it will release. Waste When you’re ready to warm up with a hot cup of coffee or tea, opt to make your drinks at home in your reusable mugs. When you head for the store or if you shop online, be mindful of packaging. Find retailers that offer sustainable packaging options instead of plastic foam (like Styrofoam) and plastic . Remember your reusable produce and shopping bags when you head to the store or garden stand, so you can buy fresh fruits and veggies without the plastic waste . Efficient kitchens Keep your refrigerator running efficiently by vacuuming out the vents along the bottom. Deice your freezer if it doesn’t have an auto-defrost option. Keep the blender, coffee maker and toaster unplugged when not in use, and leave the oven door open after use to release the warm air into your home. Create a more sustainable coffee station by ditching the single-use plastic coffee pods in favor of a reusable version. Better yet, convert to a ceramic drip or French press, skipping the waste and composting the leftover coffee grounds. Winter is soup season , meaning it is the perfect time to use up a variety of vegetables and incorporate a meat-free dinner at least once each week. Stay cozy! Images via Pixabay and Unsplash

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Save energy and money with these eco-friendly tips for winter

Tips for Sustainable Outdoor Dining This Winter

December 29, 2020 by  
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It’s no secret that the pandemic has been hard on … The post Tips for Sustainable Outdoor Dining This Winter appeared first on Earth 911.

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Vegan Hanukkah recipes that everyone will enjoy

December 10, 2020 by  
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Like most holidays, food is an integral part of Hanukkah . But as is often the case at holiday celebrations, it’s easy for vegans to feel left out of the fun. Don’t despair. Genius chefs have found workarounds so that vegans can eat a plant-based rendition of everything from matzo ball soup to brisket. Here are some recipes to accompany lighting the menorah. Latkes Latkes are a Hanukkah favorite, and there are so many ways to make these small and savory fried pancakes. Potatoes are the classic main ingredient, but other grated root vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots or even beets will also work. Instead of using egg for a binder, vegan versions mix in potato starch or flax seed. Forks Over Knives offers a healthier baked version of potato-corn latkes . Or you can really go rogue with the Minimalist Baker’s recipe for samosa potato cakes with green chutney. As the Minimalist Baker herself puts it, “Everyone knows samosas are the best appetizer, so why not make them into latkes?” Serve with applesauce and/or vegan sour cream. Related: 5 tips for a green and happy Hanukkah! Brisket What?! Vegans don’t eat brisket. Well, not really. But the handy resource group Jewish Veg has a recipe for a jackfruit-based alternative. Just add crushed tomatoes, apple cider vinegar, red wine and a few more tasty ingredients, and you’ll have a new take on the traditional meaty main dish. Kugel Kugel is usually made as an egg noodle-based dessert casserole involving eggs and sweet cream sauce. But the Unconventional Baker replaces all that egg and dairy with a cashew-based cream cheese sauce and adds raisins and apples for sweetness. Or you can turn kugel savory with this recipe from the Spruce Eats . It uses carrots, onions, zucchini and potatoes, with the flexibility to add some of your other favorites. Matzo ball soup Matzo (also spelled matzah) ball soup is one of the most famous Jewish dishes and is especially know for its connection to Passover. But Hanukkah is also an excellent time to make it. The traditional way of preparing it is to float Ashkenazi Jewish soup dumplings called matzo balls — a mixture of matzo meal, water, eggs and chicken or other fat — in chicken soup. But you can substitute a delicious veggie broth and make vegan matzo balls. This recipe from The Edgy Veg uses coconut oil and potato starch as fat and binder. Forks Over Knives’ recipe for herbed vegan matzo ball soup holds it together with cooked quinoa and flax seed. And if you’re wondering, matzo meal is mostly wheat flour. Challah Braided challah bread can still be good even without the egg coating traditionally used to make it shiny on top. Instead, you can use soy or other plant-based milk to replicate the shine. There’s even a whole class of “water challah” recipes for those who avoid eggs. Water challah is more popular in Israel , while eggy challah prevails in the U.S. The Spruce Eats gets sweet with the topping in its maple-glazed vegan water challah . You can liven your bread up with poppy seeds, too. Blintzes Blintzes are sweet, thin crepes usually filled with fruit or cheese. It’s simple enough to swap out the usual milk and eggs in the batter. This recipe from Yum Vegan Lunch Ideas fakes the cream cheese with silken tofu , plus a little vanilla, powdered sugar, lemon juice, vegan butter and apple cider vinegar. Famous vegan chef Mark Reinfeld’s recipe for blueberry blintzes is on the Jewish Veg site and includes tahini and cardamom for extra flavor. If you keep your batter basic, it’s easy to go savory instead of sweet with the fillings. Applesauce Applesauce is almost always vegan . But you don’t have to settle for a bland version straight from the jar. Check out Cookie and Kate’s recipe for applesauce with maple and cinnamon. Or spice up your store-bought applesauce with something special, whether that’s a pinch of cayenne or some pureed cranberries. Cashew sour cream Top your latkes (and everything else) with freshly made cashew sour cream. The Simple Veganista recommends soaking the cashews in two to three inches of water for a couple of hours to soften them. Then all you have to do is add water, lemon, apple cider vinegar and salt to your high-speed food processor and blast them into cream. Chocolate babka Chocolate is important to any holiday celebration, and chocolate babka is good morning, noon or night. You’ll need plenty of vegan butter to make this delicious, pull-apart dessert bread. The Domestic Gothess provides easy-to-follow pictorial directions. Sufganiyot Part of the Hanukkah story is a miracle of long-lasting oil. As Jewish vegan activist Mayim Bialik explains on PETA’s website, “Sufganiyot, or jelly doughnuts, are a traditional food eaten for Hanukkah. The holiday falls in the winter and commemorates the miracle of oil that lights the menorah in the Great Temple in Jerusalem lasting for eight days rather than one. Foods fried in oil are thus traditional for this festive winter holiday. This is a recipe I veganized, and although it is labor-intensive, the results are unbelievably delicious.” Happy Hanukkah! Images via Pixabay and Adobe Stock Images

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Vegan Hanukkah recipes that everyone will enjoy

The top 10 houseplants of 2020 and what’s trending for 2021

November 23, 2020 by  
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Introducing just one plant to your home can improve the air quality and add a lovely touch of green. With so many people staying at home because of coronavirus, plants are becoming a popular and easy way to spruce up interior spaces, balconies, porches and outdoor living areas. But which plants are most popular? Research from Flowercard reveals 2020’s trendiest houseplants and what to expect in 2021. Cacti People love cacti . These low-maintenance plants offer an interesting look, especially with species like the Fishbone, Mistletoe or Bunny Ear Cactus. Popularity increases of 2280%, 1467% and 1985% respectively make these plants an especially trendy addition to any home. Just make sure to keep small children and pets away from these prickly plants. Blue Star Fern Blue Star Fern also saw a popularity spike over the last 10 years. Up by 1795%, these low-light houseplants offer a gorgeous green color. Blue Star Ferns love moist soil, making them very tolerant of over-watering. The flat, long leaves also spread out beautifully to add a lot of color to any area.  Velvet Calathea Velvet Calathea, also known as the peacock plant, is set to be one of 2021’s biggest stars, with a popularity increase of 1291%. Named for its velvety texture, this plant’s wide, two-tone green leaves feature a herringbone pattern that looks a little like feathers. Calathea plants thrive in shady, humid environments and don’t need a lot of water . Give them some indirect sunlight, and you can enjoy their eye-catching beauty. Snake Plant Snake Plant, scientifically known as Sansevieria Zeylanica, is low-maintenance but beautiful. Coming in third place as one of 2020’s most popular houseplants , the snake plant sports tall, thin leaves in multiple shades of green. This plant thrives with indirect light and little water, making it ideal for any home environment. String of Hearts With gorgeous, unique heart-shaped leaves, it’s no wonder the String of Hearts plant’s popularity has skyrocketed by 1057%. Classified as a semi-succulent, this plant not only tolerates dry soil but can actually rot in overly moist soil, so be careful when watering. Keep the soil just slightly moist through spring and summer, and don’t worry when the plant goes dormant in fall and winter . Your patience will be rewarded in spring and summer when the plant produces pretty purple flowers. Place your String of Hearts up high to allow the vines to trail down and show off their unique leaves. Happy Bean Plant The Happy Bean Plant is native to rainforests. Up 796% in popularity, this semi-succulent plant features peapod-shaped leaves that sprout along tall stems. Happy Bean Plants liven up any space; just make sure to train the plant to prevent the leaves from growing out twisted. Avoid overwatering these plants, and give them plenty of indirect sunlight. Keep them thriving in peat-based, well-draining soil .  Chinese Money Plant With a popularity increase of 668%, Chinese Money Plants rank in eighth place among the 10 houseplants seeing the biggest increases in popularity. This comes as no surprise considering the plant’s large, eye-catching leaves. Keep Chinese Money Plants happy with lots of bright, indirect sunlight and well-draining soil. You can give these plants a little shade to make the leaves grow larger and rotate the plant to keep it from getting lopsided. Droopy leaves are easily fixed with a little extra water. Peace Lily Peace Lilies, the fourth most popular plant of 2020, earn the nickname “closet plants” for being so low-maintenance. These beauties grow wide, pointed leaves in dark green with bright white flowers. At least, these look like flowers. These blooms are actually leaf bracts that resemble flower petals. Pretty cool, right? Give your Peace Lily medium to low light and make sure not to over-water. Water the lily when the soil is dry. Otherwise, just let it do its thing and this plant will stay beautiful for you. Lavender Lavender plants are also especially trendy right now, ranking second on the 2020 top 10 list of popular houseplants. Nearly 10 million total searches for lavender show that people are definitely interested in this fragrant herb. Who wouldn’t love this plant’s distinctive purple coloring and pleasant smell? Use lavender as a garnish, place sprigs of it around the house or use it as a jumping-off point to start an herb garden. Easy-to-grow herbs like basil, rosemary, thyme and oregano are great choices for a windowsill container garden. You can even experiment with cool ways to grow and display your herbs. Aloe Vera Earning the number one spot as 2020’s most popular houseplant, Aloe Vera earned a staggering 19,332,400 total searches. As attractive as it is useful, this plant’s thick, tall stems can be broken open to reveal juices that soothe rashes, burns and bug bites. As Flowercard puts it, “we love a plant that can multitask.” Planting Around the Home Houseplants help improve air quality and provide great-looking interior decor . Choose your plants wisely based on how easy they are to care for, how safe they are to have around and how they suit your personal tastes. Have fun with this green hobby, and play around with different plants. + Flowercard Images via Flowercard, Pixabay and Shutterstock

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Get ready for the next wave of GMOs

October 2, 2020 by  
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Get ready for the next wave of GMOs Jim Giles Fri, 10/02/2020 – 02:00 One summer day almost 20 years ago, a group of protestors arrived at a plot of genetically modified corn growing near the town of Montelimar in southern France. They were led by José Bové , a left-wing activist famous for his skirmishes with the law and his tremendous moustache. Using machetes and shears, the protestors uprooted the crops and dumped the debris outside the offices of the regional government. I thought about Bové this week as I read a new report on the next generation of genetic food technology . The techniques in the report make the processes that Bové opposed look clunky. The GMOs he destroyed were created by inserting genes from other organisms — say a stretch of DNA that confers resistance to a particular herbicide — into a plant’s genome. This brute force approach is time-consuming and hard to control. Now scientists are using a new suite of gene-editing techniques, including a process known as CRISPR, to rapidly and precisely control the behavior of specific plant genes.  Gene-edited crops already exist. Scientists at the biotech firm Corteva, for example, have developed a high-yield strain of a variety of corn used in food additives and adhesives. Yet these initial advances belie the technology’s potential. Is there a way that civil society, government and businesses can come together to prioritize development of gene-edited crops that deliver social and environmental benefits as well as economic ones? The power of gene editing can be wielded to modify plants and, among other things, achieve significant sustainability wins. Here are a few potential outcomes explored in the new report, published by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation , a pro-technology think tank: Dramatic reductions in waste, made possible by engineering crops to produce food products that last longer on the shelf and are less susceptible to pests.  Lower greenhouse gas emissions from cattle, after CRISPR is used to alter the genetic activity of the methane-producing microbes that live in the animals’ stomachs. Reductions to the hundreds of millions of tons of methane emitted annually from rice production, thanks to new gene-edited rice strains. Increases in the carbon-sequestering power of crops, made possible by engineered arieties that put down deeper root systems. This potential is thrilling, and there are signs that it will arrive soon. In China, where the government has made a big bet on gene-editing technology , numerous labs are working on crop strains that require less pesticides, herbicides and water. In the United States, a small but growing group of gene-editing startups is bringing new varieties to market, including an oilseed plant that can be used as a carbon-sequestering cover crop during the winter .  Yet when I read the ITIF report, I thought of Bové. Not because I agree with everything he said. Twenty years and many studies later, we know that the anti-GMO activists were wrong to say that modified crops posed a threat to human health. (The demonization of GMOs had profound consequences nonetheless: Fears about the risks posed by the crops are one reason why the crops are highly restricted in Europe and viewed warily by some consumers on both sides of the Atlantic.) The reason I thought of Bové is that, at one level, he and other activists were pushing society to take a broader view of GMOs. They wanted people to ask who and what the crops were for, because they believed, rightly, that the crops were produced mainly with the profits of ag companies in mind. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing for ag companies to be profitable. But our food systems affect so many aspects of our lives — from the composition of the atmosphere to the prevalence of disease. When GMOs first began to be planted, there hadn’t been enough debate about how the technology might affect these things. No wonder people were angry. That’s a lesson I hope we can remember as gene editing shapes agriculture. Is there a way that civil society, government and businesses can come together to prioritize development of gene-edited crops that deliver social and environmental benefits as well as economic ones? If they can, we might end up with crops that everyone wants. This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter. Sign up here to receive your own free subscription. Pull Quote Is there a way that civil society, government and businesses can come together to prioritize development of gene-edited crops that deliver social and environmental benefits as well as economic ones? Topics Food & Agriculture GMO Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Andriano Close Authorship

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