As the biting cold rips through civilization, people seek refuge in blankets and huddled by crackling fires. But many critters brave the elements and they don’t seem to mind. While winter keeps us somewhat evolved primates in hiding, we still can appreciate this round up of wildlife webcams, all of which showcase some of the amazing adaptations and quirky behaviors. So grab a hot beverage and enjoy the show.
Environmentally-Friendly Alternatives – Balloons Blow
There are many alternatives to balloon releases. To avoid unintentionally littering with balloons, you can instead have fun, celebrate, and remember with environmentally-friendly alternatives.
Let your imagination soar and who knows what creative, one-of-a-kind idea you might come up with!Unsustainable alternatives
Sky lanterns: (Chinese paper lanterns) are not an environmentally-friendly alternative. Leaving a fire unattended is against fire code. Sky lanterns have started huge fires, caused serious burns, and have killed animals.
Butterfly gardens – not butterfly releases
Butterfly releases: Lepidopterologists warn butterfly releases are not good for the environment. They also promote the breeding and exploitation of animals. Click here or here for more information.
Dove releases: Wildlife rehabilitators advise against the release of all domestic birds. Casualties are still common even when a professional is used. They also promote the breeding and exploitation of animals. http://balloonsblow.org/environmentally-friendly-alternatives/ here for more information.
Here are some ideas to get you started…
Honoring with Living Memorials
Plant in remembrance – A great way to honor and remember a loved one or an important issue is to bring more life to our planet. By planting a native tree, flower garden or butterfly garden you are not only giving life to that plant you are also providing shelter, resources, and clean air to all kinds of wildlife and people. This remembrance will last a very long time and you can visit your tree or flower bed as much as you want and create more life by doing so!
Flowers and trees can also be used at fundraising events as incentives to donate. They could then be planted in a public area, perhaps taking on different shapes or words, or can be taken home by participants to be planted elsewhere as a living memory. Here’s a great place to find trees: GiveTreeGifts.com. There are urns to plant as well. You can also help reforestation with memorial, celebration, or pet loss trees by visiting The Trees Remember.
Flags, banners, streamers and dancing inflatables – Many businesses are realizing the benefits of using reusable eye-catching signage. Colorful streamers, flags and banners save money and time over balloons, ribbons and helium. They are also weather resistant, save Helium, and can be reused again and again! Here are some great companies: Ribbon Streamers, Custom Made Flags, Fort Myers Banners.
Ribbon dancers – Instead of giving kids and guests balloons at parties or events, why not give them something a little more engaging? Balloons will simply sit tied up or be gone in a flash if released (not to mention harm wildlife and deplete helium resources). Ribbon dancers are beautiful and require people to move around and have fun!
A group of people spinning and twirling with a colorful long ribbon following their every move is surely a sight to see. You can even have guests make their own ribbon dancer, decorations and all!
Kites & garden spinners – Vibrant fabric that dance in the high winds or eye-catching colors spinning in the garden. Unlike balloons, kites and spinners can be enjoyed for years. Here’s a couple awesome places to find both, and more: Zephyr Kites, Lainie’s Way, Fun with Wind. Kites can be a great prize to give people who donate and can then be flown to draw attention. Here is an example of a successful group that uses kites for fundraising.
Bunting – A great way to decorate for parties and celebrations is bunting! These beautiful waves of fabric can be made at home and uniquely designed with different patterns, shapes, and colors. They are also reusable, fun to make, and are sure to light up the party! Here is a link to learn how to make your own bunting.
Pinwheels – With flashy colors fluttering in the wind, pinwheels are sure to catch many eyes. They are great for attracting attention to businesses, awareness projects, birthday parties and more! Kids can have fun making their own, find easy instructions here. Click here for printable patriotic pinwheel. Here are examples of pinwheels making a point: Pinwheels for Prevention, Pinwheels for Peace.
Tissue Paper Pompoms – For some color burst at parties or celebrations, tissue paper pompoms are spectacular! These pretty, colorful poof balls can be easily made at home and are reusable. They are also fun activities for kids to make too! Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to make your own pompoms.
Drumming – The drum has been called the heartbeat of Mother Earth. Using drums to celebrate does not create waste or cause danger to wildlife. The beat brings people together and can be used for any occasion. Here is a great example of how drumming can replace harmful celebrations.
Get flocked – A flock of pink flamingos brightens everyone’s day. Fake flamingos can be placed on the lawn of one’s choice for a donation, where they will stay for a few days before moving to the next scheduled location. They can be reused for years of flocking fun. Here is a great example.
Floating flowers – For some, the upward drifting of balloons gives them a sense of letting go, and at the same time thinking the balloon will eventually reach their loved one. Because remembering a loved one by potentially killing another life isn’t exactly the best feeling, there are many alternatives. Floating flowers or flower petals down a calm stream can give you the same sense of letting go. You will be able to be in nature and feel the energy of your loved one and all the life that surrounds you! Be sure to use native flowers and not let go an excessive amount.
Wildflower seed bombs – A great way to give a gift that grows is by making your own flower seed bombs! It’s important to only use native seeds. These little pounces will spread life-giving, beautiful flowers. Learn how to make your own seed bombs here.
Jump rope for a cause – Jump roping is fun, good for your body, and a great way to get people together! Using jump ropes to bring awareness to a cause engages participants and will bring attention from others who see. Here is a cause that has been very successful using jump ropes to bring awareness and funds to a growing issue.
Environmental Fundraising – Fundraising with Earth-themed and eco-conscious products. Raise funds and keep the environment clean of wasteful plastic straws. Fundraising with glass straws or here.
Ten eco-friendly fundraising ideas – Green Child Magazine has a great post.
Birthday parties without balloons – Birthday parties can be festive & exciting without boring, wasteful balloons. Here are some great examples.
Painted rocks – A stone can be used to paint memorials or celebrations! These beautiful stones can be placed in favorite spots, under trees, in gardens, along walkways, or inside. This is great for families or anyone that wants to leave a mark by using your imagination. Please be mindful when finding rocks to paint.
Lighting candles & Luminaries – A great way to remember a loved one or welcome new life is by lighting candles. On the anniversary of the passing or the birthday of new life, everyone can light a candle and remember their loved one or wish and be filled by the light of the candle. This can be a lasting, and comforting connection between you and another life! Luminaries are beautiful at night and can be used to line sidewalks or placed in a group. Learn how to make a frosted Mason jar luminary. You can also find luminaries with designs on them here.
Blowing bubbles – Blowing bubbles is always fun; watching them bounce around towards the sky and twist with the wind. It also requires you to exhale and breathe. This is a great way to release your feelings as well and just let go. Imagine the spectacular sight of a countless number of bubbles floating away into the sky with a piece of every person that have gathered together! Here is a quick homemade recipe.
Giant bubbles – We love bubbles! And the good people at Dr. Zigs can get you started on creating your own giant bubbles. They ‘strive to be a sustainable company and are driven by strong ethical and environmental principles’. These bubbles are a sight to behold and fun for everyone. Easy-to-use wands allow anyone to blow their own. Let the breeze carry them away!
The Bubble Bus is also exciting for events, celebrations, fundraisers or parties. Millions of bubbles big and small will surround everyone with joy! Make homemade bubble wands to create your own big bubbles here.
Mass Gathering – Having people come together to create a shape, word, or image can be very unifying and beautiful! This has been done to bring awareness to an issue/cause, for memorials, and celebrations. Everyone gets to participate to be a part of something bigger than themselves!
Memorials for beloved pets – Turn your pets cremations into nurturing memorials that will encourage more life. Planting native trees or wild flowers is a beautiful way to perpetuate your pets memory. You can find great alternatives here and here.
Origami Whales – Make your own pod of whales with origami whale instructions. Bring awareness to these gentle giants instead of harming them with balloons. Here is an example of how children can come together and make a difference.
Colored lights – Colored lights catch attentions during parties, holidays, and even on certain issues! It can replace a normal white light year-round at a business or be used temporarily on special days. Here is a great example of how colored lights can be used to bring awareness to an issue.
Races, walks and organized games – Engaging your audience is a key to a successful event. Fundraisers and awareness events can have racers, walkers or players donate to participate, all while attracting positive attention to the issue and having fun!
Marches – It is hard to pass by a large organized group of people and not wonder what brought them together that day. Marches are a great way to bring attention to a pressing issue or honorable individual from local people to large media networks!
Book and food drives – There are many items that can be collected by holding a drive like books, nonperishable food, art supplies, shoes, clothes, etc. All of the items gathered can be used to directly help provide to others in need and spread awareness at the same time.
Flying Wish Paper – Write your wishes on these thin pieces of paper, roll them up, light them, and watch them rise. There is very little ash left and way to get the floating effect without harming the environment. Check them out on Flying Wish Paper.
Shaved heads – This look can bring a lot of attention when a group of people are willing to shave their heads for a cause or person. This alternative is used at outreach events and memorials and can catch on fast with participants. The press is sure to pick up on the unusual look that so many people choose to wear.
By Justine Calma on Jun 1, 2018
It wasn’t until five days after Hurricane Maria made landfall that President Trump tweeted about the devastation. FEMA administrator Brock Long arrived in Puerto Rico that same day — he was among the first Trump officials to get to the battered U.S. territory.
This week, a Harvard study revealed that the September 2017 storm is likely the deadliest disaster in modern U.S. history — with more casualties than Hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 attacks combined. The analysis places Puerto Rico’s death toll at somewhere between 4,645 and 5,740 people, 90 times more dead than the government’s widely disputed official death toll.
The president has yet to offer any public condolences on the death count in the new study. He has, however, tweeted vigorously in the wake of Roseanne Barr being fired to Disney CEO Bob Iger demanding an apology for “HORRIBLE” statements made about him on ABC.
“What if 5,000 people in any US state died because of a natural disaster? It would be 24/7 news. Well, that happened in #PuertoRico as a result of #HurricaneMaría, and we are now talking about a mediocre sitcom being cancelled,” tweeted journalist Julio Ricardo Varela.
Writing in an opinion piece for NBC news, Varela continued: “Puerto Ricans are not suddenly shocked by the Harvard study … because the proof was already there months ago. But almost nobody else wanted to look for it.”
Trump’s only visit to the island after the storm — when he said that Maria wasn’t a “real” tragedy like Hurricane Katrina — Varela writes, “served to highlight the late response and federal neglect to Puerto Rico’s catastrophe.”
The president’s inattention, critics argue, contributed to a disaster response that was slow, meager, and ripe with allegations of misconduct and corruption. And rather than drive compassion for fellow Americans, his priorities have helped shift attention elsewhere. Cable news dedicated more than 16 times more airtime to the Roseanne controversy than it did to the Puerto Rico death toll.
Because of the silence, Refinery 29 journalist Andrea González-Ramírez has started a viral thread on Twitter in an effort to remember and name the dead:
“This should be a day of collective mourning in Puerto Rico. Thousands dead because of administrations that could not get the job done,” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz tweeted on Tuesday. “These deaths & the negligence that contributed to them cannot be forgotten. This was, & continues to be, a violation of our human rights.”
And with Hurricane Season 2018 beginning today, there’s still uncertainty about how prepared this administration is for another storm. Puerto Rico’s power authority announced yesterday that it may take another two months to get power back completely on the island, and officials say it’s likely that the electrical grid will crash again with the next hurricane.
On top of that, FEMA is going through a “reorganization,” Bloomberg reported last week, and several key leadership roles are still vacant or temporarily filled.
“What the impacts from the 2017 disasters show is that there is also still work to do in order to build a culture of preparedness across the country at all levels of government, including improved resilience among our critical infrastructure,” FEMA wrote to Grist in an email.
Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil. It comes from the fruit of the African oil palm tree (Elaeis guineensis).
Native to West Africa, oil palm has been traditionally grown as a subsistence crop in small-scale farming systems for thousands of years.
Oil palms were introduced to Southeast Asia by European traders in the early 19th century, particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia, where the climate is more humid, and therefore even more conducive to oil palm growth. Palm oil trees can grow to over 20 metres tall, and unlike some other vegetable oil crops, the fruit can be harvested all year round.
Large-scale production on monocultural oil palm plantations has become highly prevalent over the last forty years in response to ever-increasing global demand.
Palm oil comes from oil palm fruits
The fruit of the African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) is crushed to extract palm oil. (Image: oneVillage Initiative)
Palm oil production in Ghana
Oil palm fruit harvest, Malaysia
Oil palm fruit is harvested with peak production occurring between ages seven and 18. (Image: Craig Morey)
Oil palm fruit harvest, Malaysia
Crude palm oil is refined for manufacturing
Unrefined red palm oil is sent to refineries for processing. (Image: oneVillage Initiative)
Crude palm oil is refined for manufacturing
Oil palms use less land than other oilseeds
Oil palms yield up to 10 times more oil per hectare than alternative vegetable oil crops. (Image: Craig Wikimedia)
Oil palms use less land than other oilseeds
Monocultures support fewer species
Oil palm plantations provide far less plant and animal diversity than forests. (Image: Achmad Rabin Taim)
Monocultures support fewer species
Why is palm oil so widely used?
Palm oil is very versatile and widely used in food products, detergents, and cosmetics. At least 50% of the packaged products sold in most supermarkets contain palm oil. It is also increasingly used as a biofuel.
Palm oil has the potential to be a more economically viable and sustainable vegetable oil than the alternatives:
using up to 10 times less land than other major vegetable oils such as rapeseed or sunflower;
producing higher yields per hectare – one hectare of land can produce 4,000kg palm oil, or 500kg of kernel oil;
requiring less fertiliser, fewer pesticides, and storing more carbon than other oil crops.
Despite these potential benefits, business as usual is not sustainable. Industry expansion cannot continue if this is at the cost of Indonesia’s natural ecosystems, as well as forests in many other countries throughout the tropics.
Problems associated with irresponsible palm oil production:
There are many negative environmental impacts associated with unsustainable palm oil production. Oil palms are typically grown in regions that contain high levels of biodiversity (Indonesia and Malaysia together produce about 85% of the world’s palm oil) on land that was previously occupied by tropical rainforests and peatlands.
This land is often cleared illegally, destroying some of the world’s most diverse habitats and increasing pollution and carbon emissions through slash and burn agriculture.
In many areas, local communities are not respected and employees are treated poorly.
Oil palm plantation in Cigudeg by Achmad Rabin Taim from Jakarta, Indonesia
Palm oil plantation in Cigudeg by Achmad Rabin Taim from Jakarta, Indonesia
Why can’t we just stop buying palm oil?
Over 50 million tonnes of palm oil is consumed every year, around one third of all vegetable oil.
If we stop buying palm oil, palm oil producing companies will sell palm oil to markets that do not value the environment.
Other vegetable oils will be grown in its place which require up to ten times more land to produce the same amount of oil, increasing deforestation.
Palm oil production provides an income for 4.5 million people in Indonesia and Malaysia alone, taking them out of poverty, and accounts for 4.5% of Indonesian GDP.
What is sustainable palm oil?
To develop a sustainable palm oil industry, companies must:
Stop clearing rainforests and developing on peatlands.
Manage their plantations responsibly according to best practice guidelines.
Trace their supply of palm oil back to the refinery and plantations where it was farmed.
Establish safe and fair working conditions for employees.
Properly consult local communities on new developments.
What you can do to support sustainable palm oil:
Explore more about the issue through the Guardian’s excellent interactive: from rainforest to your cupboard – the story of palm oil.
Support companies that have made commitments to using only certified sustainable palm oil.
Don’t just avoid the problem by boycotting palm oil altogether, instead be part of the solution by supporting Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) as a minimum. Look out for products bearing the RSPO Trademark, which show that they contain a minimum 95% of CSPO.
Ask retailers to source certified sustainable palm oil, not only in their own-brand products but in all the products they sell. You can do this by contacting their customer service departments.
Ask manufacturers to source certified sustainable palm oil.
Lobby your parliamentary or government representative to improve national legislation.
Join or support organisations that are actively campaigning for better standards.
Increase your own awareness of what is in your food.
See how some of the most famous products you buy have performed on Oxfam’s Behind the Brands ethical scorecard.
Read through the Union for Concerned Scientists’ palm oil scorecard, and their global warming factsheet.
Learn more about the work of other organisations promoting better management practices in the Palm Oil Innovation Group.
A LITTLE BIRD TRIVIA AROUND THE DINING TABLE
Bald Eagles weigh 6.6 to 13.9 lb and can carry about 3 to 4 lbs. Typical Wingspand (adult) is between 5.9 and 7.5 ft. females are about 25% larger than males averaging 12 lbs. against the male’s average weight of 9 lbs. Lifespan in the wild is 20 to 25 years. Scientific name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus.
Dr. David M. Bird
Imagine being out on the edge of a soggy field in early morning intently peering into some shrubbery for a closer peek at a small songbird. Suddenly you hear a very loud thump only a few feet away and you see a large branch weighing over ten pounds with its heavy end embedded into the soil. Curious as to its origin, you gaze upward to see an adult bald eagle veering away high in the sky. And your first thought might be…..”wow…..what if that log had hit me in the head?!”
It turns out that such an event actually happened! In the early morning light on November 4, 2015, Alex Lamine was filming Mom Berry, one of the adult bald eagles nesting on the campus of Berry College, an educational institution begun in 1902 in Rome, Georgia. The college is home to several pairs of nesting bald eagles and an army of eagle voyeurs who watch the eagles’ nesting activities on a web cam. The first eagle pair showed up on the main campus in the spring of 2012, nesting in the top of a tall pine tree right near the main entrance. Two eaglets were successfully fledged in 2013, one in 2014, and two this past summer. A second nest on a more remote campus fledged three young in 2014, but was not active this year. A bald eagle carrying a 12-pound branch?! Sounds almost impossible, doesn’t it, but it not only happened but it was captured on film as well. This observation immediately raised three questions about bald eagles and eagles in general, and set off a flurry of emails among eagle experts, including yours truly. First, did the bird actually ‘carry’ an object weighing 12 pounds? Second, how much can eagles carry in the air? And third, do bald eagles actually gnaw off limbs from trees?
Amy Ries, who writes a blog for the Raptor Resource Project raptorresource.blogspot.ca/2015/11/how-much-can-bald-eagle-carry was quite impressed with the herculean feat and to learn more about it, she passed on the observation to a number of bald eagle experts. She was inclined to think that the branch was already in a falling motion from the tree and thus, does not support an assertion that bald eagles can fly for any distance carrying a 12-pound object, especially a branch heavy at one end and light at the other, in just one foot.
James Grier, a retired professor at North Dakota State University in Fargo, was the first eagle expert to respond. Growing up in the world of raptor research with Jim throughout all of my life, I am well aware of his decades of climbing to bald eagle nests in the Lake-of-the-Woods region of Ontario to band eaglets in order to learn more about their movements and fidelity to nesting sites. He said that unlike ospreys which carry fish with both feet while also orienting it with the air flow to reduce drag, bald eagles usually just grab either prey or nest materials with one or both feet and carry it dangling and swinging, and yes, sometimes dropping it. Flight conditions are also important, the best ones being high air pressure with a steady wind, and equally critical, lots of room for a good take-off and an ability to stay airborne. Even under such conditions, Jim said that it can still be a lot of work and effort for the eagles to carry large items. He added that sometimes if eagles can get a large item into the air but not all the way back to the nest, they will stop somewhere along the way such as on higher ground, a low tree branch, or an open tree, to get rid of dead weight such as the entrails, further disassemble it, and/or even eat some of it.
“I remember being at blinds and hearing the heavy, labored wing-beats from eagles carrying large items into the nest. I could sometimes hear the flapping from a long distance out where it almost sounded like someone beating on the side of a boat it was so loud!” Jim explained, “One of the more interesting items I remember, it wasn’t a big item but a duck that was still alive when the eagle brought it into the nest. The eagle had a hold of the duck by the back and was carrying it in one foot. The duck was looking around and its feet were paddling the air like mad when the eagle landed on the nest with it!”
On the weight-carrying question, Chuck Sindelar, also a long-time bald eagle expert in Wisconsin, was the next to weigh in (sorry… couldn’t help myself!). He believes that an eagle can seldom fly with any more than half of its body weight.
Jon Gerrard concurs with this feeling. He studied bald eagles in Saskatchewan with Gary Bortolotti (R.I.P.) for many years and he quotes a story from their wonderful co-authored book entitled “The Bald Eagle: Haunts and Habits of a Wilderness Monarch”. A female of a pair of bald eagles nesting on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana in the 1890s caught and carried snow geese weighing from 4.5 to 6 pounds for up to a mile and a half to their nest. But here is the key point — the eagle was actually flying downhill! This means that the goose was caught high in the air and the eagle basically glided downward to its nest with its prey. And this was not a one-time occurrence — more than 35 snow goose heads were found in that particular nest at one time. Since the female weighed between 8 to 11 pounds, this suggests a weight-carrying capacity of half its body weight, but for “downhill” flights only.
With all due respect to all of the aforementioned bald eagle experts, I honestly know of no one who has accumulated as many hours of watching these magnificent birds as David Hancock, the founder of the Hancock Wildlife Foundation based in Surrey, British Columbia. He basically lives and breathes ‘bald eagles’! From his late teenage days to today, David has been an avid student of these birds and he is famous for helping to pioneer the web cameras on many of their nests much to the delight of millions of eagle enthusiasts all over the world. Surely he would have some comment on this observation.
And so he did. A number of years ago, he and some assistants were three miles offshore from the Queen Charlotte Islands. They watched a male bald eagle swoop down, catch a large red snapper, and then carry it in its talons at a speed of 25 to 30 miles per hour toward an island. After about three-quarters of a mile, the eagle dropped the fish but then immediately flew down and grabbed it again. Two hundred yards later and about a half-mile from shore, it repeated this scenario, once again relinquishing the fish to the water’s surface. Not to give up on its prize though, this stubborn bird next landed on the fish and used its wings to row it to shore! All bald eagle experts will tell you that these large birds are quite good at swimming with their wings.
There’s more to this story though. Wanting to know more about the fish’s weight, David flushed the eagle off the snapper and weighed it in at one and a half pounds. He also added that the fish “tasted marvelous”!
The whole incident drove David to undertake some weight-carrying tests with some captive bald eagles. He found that for 100 yards, males could carry objects weighing two pounds, and females about three pounds. Upon hearing about this latest “branch” incident, he too felt that the bird was likely carrying it “downhill” or the branch was in a falling motion from the tree, as Amy postulated.
On a related note, I contacted Sergej Postpalsky, a raptor expert in Michigan, and I asked him what was the largest prey he had seen carried by ospreys in his 40 years of studying this species in the Great Lakes. About two pounds, he replied, and on more than once occasion. Not bad for a bird that weighs less than half of a female bald eagle!
The other aspect of the original observation focused on the ‘gnawing” behavior whereupon the eagle apparently was seen chewing on the limb to remove it from the tree. Jim Grier confessed to knowing that bald eagles do engage in that activity, but knew little else about it.
Chuck Sindelar has seen both bald and golden eagles break sticks off standing trees by hitting them with their feet with enough force to snap them off, but did not mention any observations of them actually gnawing on them to facilitate breaking them from the tree. Jon Gerrard has often seen bald eagles at Besnard Lake, Manitoba breaking off limbs in this manner, but none as big as the one collected by the Berry College eagle. He added that they are usually dead limbs. Jon also wondered whether the eagle in question actually did some gnawing at the thick end of the branch before breaking it off because this would not fit with the fact that the eagle was clutching the thin or outer end of the limb before dropping it. He suggested that perhaps the bird gnawed the limb part way through at the thick end, and then flew to grab the thin end and then using its momentum, broke it off at the thick end. Years ago, I watched a video of ospreys in Scotland wherein the birds would dive at a tree with some speed and use their feet to snap off dead branches from trees for nesting material, but there was never any prior gnawing involved.
All in all, it was a very interesting anecdote which sparked some very healthy debate among several eagle experts. As Jim Grier points out, “With today’s technologies including the eagle nest cams, more eagles around, and a lot more people watching and taking/recording pics and videos, I think we’re going to get more anecdotes like this, insights into the eagles’ lives that we’ve never seen before, and learn a lot more than we did in the past.”
I could not agree more.
The latest from Dr. Bird
My niece came across this and posted it on her Facebook page…
The answer is: no.
No hawk can carry off a 12-pound pet. No hawk can carry off a 3-pound pet. The largest hawk in North America (the Ferruginous Hawk) weighs at most four pounds, so leaving the ground carrying three – let alone twelve – would be aerodynamically (not to mention logically) impossible. Red-tailed Hawks weigh about two pounds.
That did not stop a New Jersey animal shelter from publishing this rabble-rousing flyer on Facebook, all written in alarming red capital letters:
PARK RANGERS AND VET OFFICES ARE PUTTING OUT WARNINGS. THIS YEAR THE HAWKS REALLY SEEM TO BE OUT IN FORCE OFF THE EAST COAST.
THE PETS THAT ARE IN REAL DANGER ARE THE ONES WHO ARE 12 POUNDS AND UNDER. THESE ARE THE PETS THAT HAWKS CAN SWOOP DOWN AND GRAB.
DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS OUTSIDE WITHOUT SUPERVISION.
One could joke about the squadrons of hawks out patrolling the beaches, or the park rangers suddenly worried about the safety of household pets, but before it was taken down the post had over 108,000 views, 4,200 Likes, and 1,000 comments. And since these things never really disappear, it’s still out there.
The frustrating responses went like this: “OMG!” “Yikes!” “I had no idea!” “How awful!” The frightening responses went like this: “Just shoot ‘em.” “That’s why we need more trapping.” “I’m going to string wire all across my backyard!”
Wildlife lovers and rehabilitators, as always, tried to intervene. “I have been caring for raptors for almost 29 years and not even a Bald Eagle can carry off 12 pounds,” wrote Eileen Wicker, the Executive Director of Raptor Rehabilitation of Kentucky. “Please disregard this for the rubbish it is!”
If you see a flyer such as this and you’re unfamiliar with wildlife, you can 1) believe the hundreds of people who write things like “I know for a fact a Barn Owl can carry off a 3-pound Chihuahua!” (Barn Owls weigh about a pound); 2) access fact-filled sites like the Peregrine Fund or the Cornell Lab of Ornithology; or 3) call any raptor rehabilitation center, and whoever answers the phone will tell you that the information on Facebook is bunk.
There’s one more option, if you’d like to combine learning and entertainment: 4) watch this Monty Python clip, which does a fabulous job of explaining exactly what we’re talking about using a coconut, European Swallows, and King Arthur:
Once you watch it, every time someone posts about a murderous hawk carrying off twelve pounds, you’ll be able to set them straight.
One might say the heart of the person who wrote the flyer was in the right place. But they were abysmally ignorant, not only of the facts but of the damage that can be done by posting something so stupid. Predators have a hard enough time surviving without having to deal with the fallout from something they’re incapable of even doing.
This is not to say they might not take a swipe at a very tiny dog. If you have a one, be careful and use common sense. If you have a cat, keep it inside.
“All birds of prey are protected by state and federal law,” says Eileen Wicker. “If you harm one or threaten one in any manner, you are subject to a fine and prison term. Appreciate their beauty, and their value to our earth.”
All photos courtesy of Raptor Rehabilitation of Kentucky.
Posted on April 5, 2018
By Peter Ellerton
Originally appeared in The Conversation
Much of the public discussion about climate science consists of a stream of assertions. The climate is changing or it isn’t; carbon dioxide causes global warming or it doesn’t; humans are partly responsible or they are not; scientists have a rigorous process of peer review or they don’t, and so on.
Despite scientists’ best efforts at communicating with the public, not everyone knows enough about the underlying science to make a call one way or the other. Not only is climate science very complex, but it has also been targeted by deliberate obfuscation campaigns.
If we lack the expertise to evaluate the detail behind a claim, we typically substitute judgment about something complex (like climate science) with judgment about something simple (the character of people who speak about climate science).
But there are ways to analyse the strength of an argument without needing specialist knowledge. My colleagues, Dave Kinkead from the University of Queensland Critical Thinking Project and John Cook from George Mason University in the US, and I published a paper yesterday in Environmental Research Letters on a critical thinking approach to climate change denial.
We applied this simple method to 42 common climate-contrarian arguments, and found that all of them contained errors in reasoning that are independent of the science itself.
In the video abstract for the paper, we outline an example of our approach, which can be described in six simple steps.
The authors discuss the myth that climate change is natural.
Identify the claim: First, identify as simply as possible what the actual claim is. In this case, the argument is:
The climate is currently changing as a result of natural processes.
Construct the supporting argument: An argument requires premises (those things we take to be true for the purposes of the argument) and a conclusion (effectively the claim being made). The premises together give us reason to accept the conclusion. The argument structure is something like this:
Premise one: The climate has changed in the past through natural processes
Premise two: The climate is currently changing
Conclusion: The climate is currently changing through natural processes.
Determine the intended strength of the claim: Determining the exact kind of argument requires a quick detour into the difference between deductive and inductive reasoning. Bear with me!
In our paper we examined arguments against climate change that are framed as definitiveclaims. A claim is definitive when it says something is definitely the case, rather than being probable or possible.
Definitive claims must be supported by deductive reasoning. Essentially, this means that if the premises are true, the conclusion is inevitably true.
This might sound like an obvious point, but many of our arguments are not like this. In inductive reasoning, the premises might support a conclusion but the conclusion need not be inevitable.
An example of inductive reasoning is:
Premise one: Every time I’ve had a chocolate-covered oyster I’ve been sick
Premise two: I’ve just had a chocolate-covered oyster
Conclusion: I’m going to be sick.
This is not a bad argument – I’ll probably get sick – but it’s not inevitable. It’s possible that every time I’ve had a chocolate-covered oyster I’ve coincidentally got sick from something else. Perhaps previous oysters have been kept in the cupboard, but the most recent one was kept in the fridge.
Because climate-contrarian arguments are often definitive, the reasoning used to support them must be deductive. That is, the premises must inevitably lead to the conclusion.
Check the logical structure: We can see that in the argument from step two – that the climate change is changing because of natural processes – the truth of the conclusion is not guaranteed by the truth of the premises.
In the spirit of honesty and charity, we take this invalid argument and attempt to make it valid through the addition of another (previously hidden) premise.
Premise one: The climate has changed in the past through natural processes
Premise two: The climate is currently changing
Premise three: If something was the cause of an event in the past, it must be the cause of the event now
Conclusion: The climate is currently changing through natural processes.
Adding the third premise makes the argument valid, but validity is not the same thing as truth. Validity is a necessary condition for accepting the conclusion, but it is not sufficient. There are a couple of hurdles that still need to be cleared.
Check for ambiguity: The argument mentions climate change in its premises and conclusion. But the climate can change in many ways, and the phrase itself can have a variety of meanings. The problem with this argument is that the phrase is used to describe two different kinds of change.
Current climate change is much more rapid than previous climate change – they are not the same phenomenon. The syntax conveys the impression that the argument is valid, but it is not. To clear up the ambiguity, the argument can be presented more accurately by changing the second premise:
Premise one: The climate has changed in the past through natural processes
Premise two: The climate is currently changing at a more rapid rate than can be explained by natural processes
Conclusion: The climate is currently changing through natural processes.
This correction for ambiguity has resulted in a conclusion that clearly does not follow from the premises. The argument has become invalid once again.
We can restore validity by considering what conclusion would follow from the premises. This leads us to the conclusion:
Conclusion: Human (non-natural) activity is necessary to explain current climate change.
Importantly, this conclusion has not been reached arbitrarily. It has become necessary as a result of restoring validity.
Note also that in the process of correcting for ambiguity and the consequent restoring of validity, the attempted refutation of human-induced climate science has demonstrably failed.
Check premises for truth or plausibility: Even if there were no ambiguity about the term “climate change”, the argument would still fail when the premises were tested. In step four, the third premise, “If something was the cause of an event in the past, it must be the cause of the event now”, is clearly false.
Applying the same logic to another context, we would arrive at conclusions like: people have died of natural causes in the past; therefore any particular death must be from natural causes.
Restoring validity by identifying the “hidden” premises often produces such glaringly false claims. Recognising this as a false premise does not always require knowledge of climate science.
Flow chart for argument analysis and evaluation.
When determining the truth of a premise does require deep knowledge in a particular area of science, we may defer to experts. But there are many arguments that do not, and in these circumstances this method has optimal value.
Inoculating against poor arguments
Previous work by Cook and others has focused on the ability to inoculate people against climate science misinformation. By pre-emptively exposing people to misinformation with explanation they become “vaccinated” against it, showing “resistance” to developing beliefs based on misinformation.
This reason-based approach extends inoculation theory to argument analysis, providing a practical and transferable method of evaluating claims that does not require expertise in climate science.
Fake news may be hard to spot, but fake arguments don’t have to be.
Category: Climate Justice, Featured, Social Media News Tags: climate change, Climate Denial, critical thinking, The Conversation
In mid-January, the snow made the little coastal town of Šventoji in north-west Lithuania feel like a film set. Restaurants, shops and wooden holiday cabins all sat silently with their lights off, waiting for the arrival of spring.
I found what I was looking for on the edge of the town, not far from the banks of the iced-over Šventoji river and within earshot of the Baltic Sea: Žemaitiu alka, a shrine constructed by the Lithuanian neo-pagan organisation Romuva. Atop a small hillock stood 12 tall, thin, slightly tapering wooden figures. The decorations are austere but illustrative: two finish in little curving horns; affixed to the top of another is an orb emitting metal rays. One is adorned with nothing but a simple octagon. I looked down to the words carved vertically into the base and read ‘Austėja’. Below it was the English word: ‘bees’.
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This was not the first time I’d encountered references to bees in Lithuania. During previous visits, my Lithuanian friends had told me about the significance of bees to their culture.
Lithuanians don’t speak about bees grouping together in a colony like English-speakers do. Instead, the word for a human family (šeimas) is used. In the Lithuanian language, there are separate words for death depending on whether you’re talking about people or animals, but for bees – and only for bees – the former is used. And if you want to show a new-found Lithuanian pal what a good friend they are, you might please them by calling them bičiulis, a word roughly equivalent to ‘mate’, which has its root in bitė – bee. In Lithuania, it seems, a bee is like a good friend and a good friend is like a bee.
A bee is like a good friend and a good friend is like a bee
Seeing the shrine in Šventoji made me wonder: could all these references be explained by ancient Lithuanians worshipping bees as part of their pagan practices?
Lithuania has an extensive history of paganism. In fact, Lithuania was the last pagan state in Europe. Almost 1,000 years after the official conversion of the Roman Empire facilitated the gradual spread of Christianity, the Lithuanians continued to perform their ancient animist rituals and worship their gods in sacred groves. By the 13th Century, modern-day Estonia and Latvia were overrun and forcibly converted by crusaders, but the Lithuanians successfully resisted their attacks. Eventually, the state gave up paganism of its own accord: Grand Duke Jogaila converted to Catholicism in 1386 in order to marry the Queen of Poland.
This rich pagan history is understandably a source of fascination for modern Lithuanians – and many others besides. The problem is that few primary sources exist to tell us what Lithuanians believed before the arrival of Christianity. We can be sure that the god of thunder Perkūnas was of great importance as he is extensively documented in folklore and song, but most of the pantheon is based on guesswork. However, the Lithuanian language may provide – not proof, exactly, but clues, tantalising hints, about those gaps in the country’s past.
In Kaunas, Lithuania’s second-largest city, I spoke to Dalia Senvaitytė, a professor of cultural anthropology at Vytautas Magnus University. She was sceptical about my bee-worshipping theory, telling me that there may have been a bee goddess by the name of Austėja, but she’s attested in just one source: a 16th-Century book on traditional Lithuanian beliefs written by a Polish historian.
It’s more likely, she said, that these bee-related terms reflect the significance of bees in medieval Lithuania. Beekeeping, she explained “was regulated by community rules, as well as in special formal regulations”. Honey and beeswax were abundant and among the main exports, I learned, which is why its production was strictly controlled.
But the fact that these references to bees have been preserved over hundreds of years demonstrates something rather interesting about the Lithuanian language: according to the Lithuanian Quarterly Journal of Arts and Sciences, it’s the most conservative of all living Indo-European languages. While its grammar, vocabulary and characteristic sounds have changed over time, they’ve done so only very slowly. For this reason, the Lithuanian language is of enormous use to researchers trying to reconstruct Proto-Indo-European, the single language, spoken around four to five millennia ago, that was the progenitor of tongues as diverse as English, Armenian, Italian and Bengali.
All these languages are related, but profound sound shifts that have gradually taken place have made them distinct from one another. You’d need to be a language expert to see the connection between English ‘five’ and French cinq – let alone the word that Proto-Indo-Europeans are thought to have used, pénkʷe. However, that connection is slightly easier to make out from the Latvian word pieci, and no trouble at all with Lithuanian penki. This is why famous French linguist Antoine Meillet once declared that “anyone wishing to hear how Indo-Europeans spoke should come and listen to a Lithuanian peasant”.
Lines can be drawn to other ancient languages too, even those that are quite geographically distant. For example, the Lithuanian word for castle or fortress – pilis – is completely different from those used by its non-Baltic neighbours, but is recognisably similar to the Ancient Greek word for town, polis. Surprisingly, Lithuanian is also thought to be the closest surviving European relative to Sanskrit, the oldest written Indo-European language, which is still used in Hindu ceremonies.
This last detail has led to claims of similarities between Indian and ancient Baltic cultures. A Lithuanian friend, Dovilas Bukauskas, told me about an event organised by local pagans that he attended. It began with the blessing of a figure of a grass snake – a sacred animal in Baltic tradition – and ended with a Hindu chant.
I asked Senvaitytė about the word gyvatė. This means ‘snake’, but it shares the same root with gyvybė, which means ‘life’. The grass snake has long been a sacred animal in Lithuania, reverenced as a symbol of fertility and luck, partially for its ability to shed its skin. A coincidence? Perhaps, but Senvaitytė thinks in this case probably not.
The language may also have played a role in preserving traditions in a different way. After Grand Duke Jogaila took the Polish throne in 1386, Lithuania’s gentry increasingly adopted not only Catholicism, but also the Polish language. Meanwhile, rural Lithuanians were much slower to adopt Christianity, not least because it was almost always preached in Polish or Latin. Even once Christianity had taken hold, Lithuanians were reluctant to give up their animist traditions. Hundreds of years after the country had officially adopted Christianity, travellers through the Lithuanian countryside reported seeing people leave bowls of milk out for grass snakes, in the hope that the animals would befriend the community and bring good luck.
Anyone wishing to hear how Indo-Europeans spoke should come and listen to a Lithuanian peasant
Similarly, bees and bee products seem to have retained importance, especially in folk medicine, for their perceived healing powers. Venom from a bee was used to treat viper bites, and one treatment for epilepsy apparently recommended drinking water with boiled dead bees. But only, of course, if the bees had died from natural causes.
But Lithuanian is no longer exclusively a rural language. The last century was a tumultuous one, bringing war, industrialisation and political change, and all of the country’s major cities now have majorities of Lithuanian-speakers. Following its accession to the EU in 2004, the country is now also increasingly integrated with Europe and the global market, which has led to the increasing presence of English-derived words, such as alternatyvus (alternative) and prioritetas (priority).
Given Lithuania’s troubled history, it’s in many ways amazing the language has survived to the present day. At its peak in the 14th Century, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania stretched as far as the Black Sea, but in the centuries since, the country has several times disappeared from the map entirely.
It’s too simplistic to say that Lithuanian allows us to piece together the more mysterious stretches in its history, such as the early, pagan years in which I’m so interested. But the language acts a little like the amber that people on the eastern shores of the Baltic have traded since ancient times, preserving, almost intact, meanings and structures that time has long since worn away everywhere else.
And whether or not Austėja was really worshipped, she has certainly remained a prominent presence. Austėja remains consistently in the top 10 most popular girls names in Lithuania. It seems that, despite Lithuania’s inevitable cultural and linguistic evolution, the bee will always be held in high esteem.
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