Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Commons Movement

Commons movement: A growing social and political movement that believes the commons is a crucial sector of the economy and society and useful prism for talking about resources that should be shared. The commons offers not only an affirmative vision of a more equitable, eco-friendly society: it also serves as a countervailing force to keep excesses of the market and government sectors in check. Some speak of an emerging commons paradigm as a new way of looking at the world, one that opens up the competitive, mechanistic, profit-centric mindset that has ruled Western civilization since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, with a more humanistic, environmentally aware and holistic world view. A wider appreciation for the enduring importance of the commons has developed over the last eight years, especially among people deeply involved in the politics of water issues, the internet, the over commercialization of culture and public spaces. This world view is now reaching into many other arenas, including economics, the environment, social justice and numerous citizens movements around the world.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Christine Sevilla - RIP

Thought of the Day

"Challenge the legacy of smallness that hurts us all by keeping your money away from magazines and issues that profit from someone's pain. Then, start owning your power. Toot your own horn. Speak confidently and skillfully about your accomplishments at your next job interview. Set a firm boundary the next time someone tries to keep you in line with his or her own fear and insceurity. Be brave, bold, and willing to risk getting knocked around a bit (metaphorically speaking) to stay true to your strengths and talents. I don't know about you, but I'm willing to piss a few people off or to weather a few storms to insure that I'm honoring my soul. I may go out with a few chipped teeth, but you can be sure I'll go out smilling."
Cheryl Richardson

New York USDA Map Of Hardiness Planting Zones

New York USDA Map Of Hardiness Planting Zones

Plants can grow quickly or ward off hungry insects, but not both

Plants can grow quickly or ward off hungry insects, but not both

Mother birds know best -- even before birth

Mother birds know best -- even before birth

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Governing and Bickering in Niagara Falls

1837 woodcut of Falls, from États Unis d'Améri...Image via Wikipedia
An interesting read about Niagara Falls, the Niagara gorge, and the Robert Moses Parkway can be found here. (click the word here)

For more information about the Robert Moses Parkway, please click on the labels.
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Company Wins Best Place to Work Award : Congratulations Eastern Hospitality Advisors

Thousands Of Happy Employees
Friday, March 26, 2010, 7:53am EDT

Going back in time is fun. I know this first hand, because I had an 80’s flashback at this week’s Business First Best Places to Work event. It was held Thursday at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. Hundreds of people gathered to recognize the Best Places to Work in Western New York.

Every year, Business First teams up with Quantum Workplace to uncover the top employers. Participating companies allow their employees to complete surveys about the workplace. Companies with the top scores make it onto the annual list.

They have also achieved what many companies cannot. They’ve recruited and retained good people and made them feel engaged in their work. The benefit of such a relationship is two-fold: studies show that employee attitudes are stronger at companies that show appreciation for employee efforts. And in turn, the hard work and dedication of employees directly impacts the company’s bottom line.

Oh yeah, now back to the reason I was wearing leg warmers and a banana clip in my hair. This year's event was complete with an 80's fitness theme. Past events featured a 50's and a 70's disco theme, all thanks to Karen Schiffmacher of Business First. Talk about mixing business with pleasure! The themes allow happy and satisfied employees to show their fun side and creativity! Instead of dreading a boring business lunch, employees are encouraged to have fun and enjoy the retro costumes and music.

It should be easy for them because they are used to enjoying work and work events. One employee described their workplace as “fun” in their survey. Another said, “People are productive here because they feel comfortable.” Several employees lauded the “comfortable, fun atmosphere with open door policy and ability to grow” at their companies. Most noted appreciation for their employer with family issues. “Heavy focus on quality of life and work/life balance,” one employee wrote.

This year, more than 80 companies qualified for the list, which is broken into categories based on size. You can find complete information on each company in the new print edition of Business First.

Here's a look at the top companies in each size category.

Micro: with ten to twenty employees: Eastern Hospitality Advisors, a construction management company.
Small: Leon Studio One, beauty salon and school in Williamsville.
Medium: law firm Rupp, Baase, Pfalzgraf, Cunningham and Coppola.
Large: DiVal Safety, an industrial supply company.
X-Large: CPA firm Freed Maxick & Battaglia.
XX-Large: West Herr Automotive Group.
Jumbo: with more than 1,000 employees: Erie 1 BOCES.

Article from Buffalo Business First

US Dept. of Transportation Makes Walking and Biking A Priority

Finally, in case you didn’t hear, on March 15, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a policy statement substantially raising the priority of walking and bicycling across the country. The statement notes:

Every transportation agency, including DOT, has the responsibility to improve conditions and opportunities for walking and bicycling and to integrate walking and bicycling into their transportation systems. Because of the numerous individual and community benefits that walking and bicycling provide — including health, safety, environmental, transportation, and quality of life — transportation agencies are encouraged to go beyond minimum standards to provide safe and convenient facilities for these modes.

"When it comes to doling out federal transportation funds, projects that adhere to the new policy statement will be given a higher priority, so it is within the best interests of cities and states to adhere to it. With a new transportation bill looming that could reach a half trillion dollars, anyone wanting a piece of the pie will have to take pedestrians and cyclists into account. Call it a carrot-and-stick approach."

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Rare Bird Alert

Thursday, March 25, 2010

 Dial-a-Bird is a service provided by your Buffalo Museum of Science and the Buffalo Ornithological Society. Press (2) to leave a message, (3) for updates, meeting and field trip information and (4) for instructions on how to report sightings. To contact the Science Museum, call 896-5200.

 BARNACLE GOOSE was the highlight of reports received March 18 through March 25 from the Niagara Frontier Region.

 March 17 through at March 21, a BARNACLE GOOSE in and around the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. First discovered in a large flock of CANADA GEESE on the Forrestall Flats, north of Chestnut Ridge Road at Route 63, and relocated at nearby Ring-neck Marsh and north of the refuge on Fletcher Chapel Road, east of Route 63. A species of Greenland and Western Europe, the BARNACLE GOOSE has been traveling with CANADA GEESE and does not have a leg band, suggesting this is a wild vagrant.

 The BARNACLE GOOSE was one of at least 19 waterfowl species in the Iroquois Refuge and area, including 50 TUNDRA SWANS in the Tonawanda Wildlife Management Area, 2 LONG-TAILED DUCKS at Ring-neck Marsh, and small numbers of CACKLING GEESE at several locations. Nearby at the Town of Oakfield gypsum ponds, 4 RUDDY DUCKS. Also a NORTHERN SHRIKE, north of the refuge in Shelby.

 SANDHILL CRANES this week - two over the Eden exit of the New York State Thruway, and a single SANDHILL CRANE over Cayuga Pool in the Iroquois Refuge.

 In Wyoming County this week, a COMMON RAVEN and 2 ROUGH-
 LEGGED HAWKS on Route 77 north of the Village of Arcade. ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK also in the Cattaraugus County Town of Randolph, and another ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK plus RED-SHOULDERED HAWK in the Iroquois Refuge.

 March 20, 143 RED-NECKED GREBES on Lake Ontario off the Towns of Somerset and Yates, with lesser numbers of RED-

 March 23, 2 GREAT EGRETS arrived at the Motor Island heronry in the upper Niagara River. Other arrivals and migrants this week - OSPREY at Allegany State Park, a pair of WOOD DUCKS in a yard pond in North Tonawanda, WILSON'S SNIPE along Chestnut Ridge Road in the Iroquois Refuge, TREE SWALLOW at the Oakfield gypsum ponds, at a feeder in the Town of Holland - FOX SPARROW, female RED-W. BLACKBIRD, PURPLE FINCH and PINE SISKIN, and at several locations, EASTERN MEADOWLARKS.

 Also this week - a RUFFED GROUSE specimen by the road in Holland. PEREGRINE FALCON atop the Winspear Avenue chimney on the UB Main Street Campus. And, 6 LITTLE GULLS at the Lewiston docks on the lower Niagara River. 

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Canada's Moraine Management Plan - An Example of Ecological Restoration We Could Do In The Niagara Gorge

Moraine Management Plan
In 1999, Niagara Parks consulted with stakeholders and the public to create a Moraine Management Plan and policies to deal with development pressures from the Fallsview Tourist area overlooking Queen Victoria Park. Management, maintenance and rehabilitation will help limit slope instability, control erosion, increase regeneration and assure safe accessibility to the area. Future works on and adjacent to the moraine will be designed to enhance the aesthetic values and native biological diversity of the treed slope.
Phase 1 of ecological rehabilitation work began in May 2003 on the steep slope along the south side of Murray Hill behind Queen Victoria Place restaurants. The area was overgrown with a number of non-native invasive species, particularly Norway maple.
Before After
Moraine Management Plan - Before
Moraine Management Plan - After

Queen Victoria Park - Public Information Sign placed near the Illumination Tower:
Moraine Management Plan
A fresh approach to a fragile ecosystem
History The treed slope or moraine of Queen Victoria Park is of aesthetic and ecological significance. A management plan was created to address problems such as erosion, access, bio-diversity, aesthetics, seepage, maintenance practices and development.
Policy Due to the nature of the slope a two-stage evaluation process established to evaluate all work proposed on the Moraine and within adjacent setback zone. Satisfaction of primary goals is required prior to review of secondary goals.
Primary Goals Biodiversity: Replace non-native plant species with native one and enhance diversity for wildlife habitat improvement.
Aesthetics: Protect and enhance the continuous and contiguous appearance of the slope as natural forest landscape.
Slope Stability/Erosion Control: Stabilize soil creep and minimize erosion providing for long-term stability.
Secondary Goals View Management: Transform the Moraine with plant material so that the visibility of the Horseshoe Falls from important sites is enhanced and improved.
Access: Discourage uncontrolled access to and unsafe use of the Moraine providing safe and comfortable alternatives.
Seepage: Use excess groundwater to enhance aesthetics and biodiversity of the slope tor.
Education/Interpretation: Produce and disseminate materials about the Moraine’s natural and cultural heritage and management.
Environmental Alliance
Niagara Parks, Niagara College and the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority formed an environmental alliance dedicated to the promotion of a healthy and sustainable environment. This alliance formalizes the existing partnerships between each organization and recognizes their combined efforts in environmental stewardship and protection. The Alliance has obtained more than $100,000 funding from the Government of Canada’s "Great Lakes Sustainability Fund," to assist with two environmental initiatives aimed at sustaining important ecosystems along the Niagara River corridor.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Honey Bees' Colony Collapse Disorder

SAN FRANCISCO For years the news has been the same: Honey bees are being hammered by some mysterious environmental plague that has a name -- colony collapse disorder - but no established cause. A two-year study now provides evidence indicting one likely group of suspects: pesticides. It found "unprecedented levels" of mite-killing chemicals and crop pesticides in hives across the United States and parts of Canada.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Adapt or Die. First Casual Link to Global Warming Made

Global warming changes natural event: first causal link
12:17 18 March 2010 by Wendy Zukerman

For the first time, a causal link has been established between climate change and the timing of a natural event - the emergence of the common brown butterfly.

Although there have been strong correlations between global warming and changes in the timing of events such as animal migration and flowering, it has been hard to show a cause-and-effect link. This is what Michael Kearney and Natalie Briscoe of the University of Melbourne, Australia, have now done.

The researchers compared temperature changes in Melbourne - where the butterfly is common - with recorded observations of the first brown butterfly to be seen in the spring since the 1940s.

With each decade, the butterflies emerged 1.6 days earlier and Melbourne heated by 0.14 °C. Overall, the butterfly now emerges on average 10.4 days before it did in the 1940s, says Kearney. "And we know the rise in air temperature links to butterfly emergence in a cause-and-effect pattern."
Feeling the heat

The pair are confident in the cause-and-effect relationship for two reasons. First, they placed eggs of the butterfly, Heteronympha merope, in chambers where temperature could be controlled and found that each larval stage has a different response to warmer-than-normal conditions.

"Each stage has adapted to best survive the season that it finds itself in," says Kearney.

The egg, which is laid in late summer, and the first larval stage do well at high temperatures, says Kearney. The second to the fifth stages occur in winter and can't survive high temperatures. The knock-on effect is that the caterpillar pupates earlier and the butterfly emerges sooner.

Second, Kearney and Briscoe made a mathematical model combining these physiological effects of temperature on development with climate data. The model precisely matched the observed changes in butterfly emergence date.

The researchers used several climate models to find out what is likely to have caused the rise in Melbourne's temperature, and ruled out the possibility that natural weather events could account for the warming. "There is a very high likelihood that the locally observed climate change is human-caused," says Kearney.

Adapt or die?

Can the butterfly adapt to the changes? The female waits until the end of summer to lay her eggs, ensuring that the larvae's development stages align with the seasons. According to Kearney, if summers are longer, the female must "wait around", and it's unknown if her lifespan can cope.

"It also may be too warm for the developing butterfly to get through the larval stages," says Kearney.

Myron Zalucki, an entomologist at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, calls this "an interesting piece of work". But he questions the accuracy of the butterfly emergence dates in Kearney and Briscoe's model, saying that there are discrepancies between what the model predicts and what is actually observed.

Zalucki also queries whether the butterflies are indeed emerging earlier or Melbourne's growing population has more people on the lookout.

Journal reference: Biology Letters, DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2010.0053

NOTICE:  In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed, without profit, for research and educational purposes only.  

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Sample Letter to Save NY's State Parks

You can find your NY assembly legislators here.
and your NY senators here.

Dear Senator/Assembymember (name),

I strongly urge you prevent 91 state parks and historic sites from closing by restoring at least $11.3 million to their operating budget.

State Parks and Historic Sites are economic engines that contribute $2 billion dollars and generate 20,000 jobs annually to the New York State Economy. At a time when more people than ever are visiting our parks and historic sites because they are close by and affordable, closures will deprive our communities of much-needed revenue, and jobs.

Of course parks and historic sites are more than revenue and job creators. They enhance our quality of life, and (Your Area) residents take great pride in (name of your parks/historic sites. Please fill in any local information about your park - for example, how you use it and what it means to you and the people you know.)

Considering the great wealth and pride our parks and historic sites provide our communities, they are but a tiny investment for New York. Parks and Historic sites are only one-quarter of one percent of the state budget. Yet despite their great return for so little an investment, the Executive Budget proposed to slash State Parks operation funding by 20%. I understand that the state is in a dire economic situation right now, but cutting parks by such a disproportionate amount is unjust and imprudent.

(Your park or historic site) is an economic engine that also enhances the quality of life for my neighbors and me. Please prevent the closing of our (park/historic site) by restoring the funding State Parks need to safely operate all of their statewide facilities.

(Your Name, Address, and e-mail)

Why Keeping All Of New York's State Parks Open Is Important

Save Our State Parks

New York's State Parks face an unprecedented crisis. For the first time in the history of NYS, Governor Paterson is closing State Parks--as many as 90 will potentially shut their doors this spring. Not even during the Great Depression did our state parks close. In fact, FDR made them a vital part of our nation’s economic recovery.

Contact your legislators. Ask them to:
1. Restore $11 million to State Park’s operating budget to prevent closing dozens of State Parks and Historic Sites. 

2. Provide $27 million for State Parks Capital Projects, either within the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), State Park Infrastructure Fund (SPIF), or by providing a third year of bonded capital funding for State Parks. Restore the EPF to $222 million, 2009-2010 levels.

Talking Points:
 Why State Parks Are Important 
1. State Parks provide affordable, close to home recreational opportunities. Last year more than 56 million people visited New York State Parks--2 million more than the previous year. 

2. Closing parks will hit surrounding communities hard. Parks are economic engines that annually generate $1.9 billion and 20,000 jobs (not including park staff). The benefits State Parks provide New York far outweigh their cost. 

3. State Parks make up a mere one-quarter of one percent of the total state budget. For every dollar New York spends on parks, our state’s economy enjoys a five dollar return. When you close a park or historic site, you save some expenses, but you also lose revenue (entrance fees, camping fees, picnic shelter rentals, etc – all park revenues remain with the agency).

4. Every $1 million in park closings generates only $650,000 in net budget savings. Closing State Parks would be disastrous for New York’s families and economy.

State Parks Operating Budget: Background 
5. The latest cuts would mean that State Parks operating budget will have been cut by nearly 40% over the past two years. The agency has already lost 1,000 permanent and seasonal workers. This year the governor proposed to cut the operating budget by about $25 million.

6. Only $11 million is required to keep parks open--less than half the proposed cut. State Parks and Historic sites have suffered more than their fair share of cuts. Despite a larger overall statewide budget this year, they received about 22% in cuts to their state operations funding.

State Parks Capital Initiative 
7. Decades of underinvestment in the State Park System has led to a critical capital backlog that exceeds $650 million. Many of the projects in desperate need of capital funding are those that impact public health and safety - i.e. sewers, drinking water systems, bridge replacement.

8. Environmental Protection Fund Governor Paterson’s budget proposal for FY2010-11 disproportionately cuts the EPF by 33%, from $222M to $143M. The funding must be restored to $222M.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Thought of the Day

Remember this always: The living of your own life writes the book of your most sacred truth, and offers evidence of it.
Neale Donald Walsch

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Niagara Gorge - Canadian Description Outlines Uniqueness

Description: The Niagara Gorge is one of the best known natural areas in the world for its waterfalls, geology and to naturalists in southern Ontario, it is also well known for its woodlands and its bird life. (Larson, B.M., et al, 1999)

Vegetation: The gorge has a great diversity of vegetation, both on bedrock substrates and on deeper soils. On the shallow soils along the gorge rim, semi-open woodlands of Chinquapin Oak, White Oak and Red Oak occur, with prairie openings of Little Bluestem and Rough Dropseed. On deeper soils, a plain forest back from the Whirlpool ravine supports Sugar Maple with scattered Red Oak and White Oak and a small thicket swamp of Grey Dogwood - Buttonbush surrounded by a swamp of Red Maple -Pin Oak - White Ash. The gorge cliffs have open communities of Smooth Cliff-brake and Bulblet Fern, with occasional marl and moss-encrusted seepage zones. Talus slopes in the gorge are largely covered in rich Sugar Maple and Black Maple forests. Northern forests of White Birch, Hemlock and White Cedar, and southern forests of Chinquapin Oak and Basswood - Butternut occur on the large block talus. Other communities on the talus slopes include Staghorn Sumac and Ninebark thickets and extensive open screes of Leafcup and Virginia Creeper. The deeper soils in the gorge, particularly at the Whirlpool and Niagara Glen, have magnificent forests of Sugar Maple with scattered towering Tulip-trees, occasional Tulip-tree groves and, on drier sites, mature forests of Red Oak and Chinquapin Oak. Younger forests of Eastern Cottonwood, White Ash and Ironwood occur as isolated stands. On the Whirlpool slopes, mass-wasting is common on the deep soils, and areas of exposed soil have pockets of Common Reed Grass, Coltsfoot and Big Bluestem. Also frequent in the Whirlpool ravine are seepage zones of Ninebark thickets and wet meadows, with showy wildflowers like Grass-of-Parnassus, Kalm's Lobelia and False Dragonhead. Cobble beaches of Indian Grass and occasional limestone blocks sustaining Upland White Aster occur along the Whirlpool shoreline. [Varga 1995]

Landform: The Niagara Gorge is the province's largest post-glacial incised valley, with a length of 11 km and a depth of 90 m. The gorge was formed over the past 12,000 years by the erosive power of the Niagara River, the Falls having receded from an initial position on the escarpment edge at Queenston. A much older erosive feature is exposed in the gorge at the Whirlpool, where the rapids have worn away at the break in the rock walls that marks the upstream end of the St. David's Buried Gorge, a former channel of the Niagara River cut before the last glaciation and since filled with glacial deposits. The Niagara Gorge incorporates 4 km of the gorge including the narrow Whirlpool Rapids Gorge and Devil's Hole Rapids Gorge, and the wider portions at the Whirlpool and Niagara Glen. Most of the gorge is topped by 10 m cliffs of the Lockport Formation dolostone, the escarpment caprock here. Rubble eroded from these cliffs has produced extensive talus slopes. At the Niagara Glen, a broad terrace along the Niagara River is known as Foster's Flats. This terrace is floored by a resistant sandstone layer, the Whirlpool Formation. In contrast to the rock substrates that cover most of the gorge, the Whirlpool ravine is covered in deep clay loams. [Varga 1995]

Representation: The Niagara Gorge is one of the most significant and certainly the best known natural area on the Niagara Escarpment. Part of the escarpment's largest incised valley and river are represented at the site. The Niagara Gorge also has the best examples in the Niagara Peninsula Section of mature, south-facing broadleaf talus forests, dry open talus and open talus seepage zones, as well as seepage cliffs, thickets and meadow marshes. The escarpment's only examples of Chinquapin Oak rim woodlands and rim prairies occur at the site. The cobble shore and shoreline meadow marsh communities are the only examples along the escarpment south of the Grey Section. The Niagara Gorge also has a noteworthy assemblage of northern and southern community types. Its northern White Birch and White Cedar talus forests are rare in the Niagara Peninsula section, and its southern Tulip-tree and Chinquapin Oak talus forests are restricted to very few sites along the escarpment. [Varga 1995]

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Economics of Ecosystems and Diversity - Pavan Sukhdev

Several locals in Niagara County have advocated for over ten years that restoration along the Niagara River would rejuvenate the region. The majority of our political leaders have failed to grasp the concept. Maybe reading how ecological restoration has "real economic value" in the New York Times will be more convincing. You can read the article below or here.

Saturday, Mar. 06, 2010

Should We Put A Dollar Value On Nature?

By Judith D. Schwartz

Nature lovers might cringe at the term "ecosystem services" to describe, say, the view of a pristine beach or a stream teeming with trout. But a growing number of experts within the scientific and economic communities say that putting real economic value on components of nature will help protect the environment and promote biodiversity.

Far from cheapening nature, thinking in terms of "natural capital" can offer a way to assess the crucial but unmeasured benefit that humans derive from the nature. Ascertaining that value can then help decision makers bring environmental factors more explicitly into their planning. (See the top 10 green ideas of 2009.)

Can biodiversity loss, then, be seen as a failure of the market? "Biodiversity is the living capital of the planet," says Pavan Sukhdev, a senior banker with Deutsche Bank and Special Adviser to the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) Green Economy Initiative. Like any capital, he says, it has to be measured to be managed. "If you don't count half of your balance sheet, you're going to get your profit and loss ratio incorrect - and we have."

Sukhdev, who's also Study Leader for a UNEP initiative called The Economics of Ecosystems and Diversity (TEEB), says that currently "the economic value attached to nature is zero. Our metrics are geared toward consumption and production of man-made goods and services, and we tend to gloss over nature." This, he says, has led to "bad accounting" which, in turn, has contributed to rapid biodiversity loss.

There is clearly an irony in the notion that attaching a "price" to ecosystems can help people reconnect with nature and what it offers us. Yet appreciating nature from an economic perspective may put environmental concerns on the table in a way that governments and institutions can work with. "In speaking the language of economics, you can play a role in the policy process," says Edward B. Barbier, Professor of Economics at the University of Wyoming, who does research on the economics of natural resources. "Twenty-five years ago, people said, 'That's horrendous - you can't discuss nature that way!' Now they say, 'You're right. We've got to put a value on nature." (See the top 10 invasive species.)

What kind of value are we talking about? According to research cited in the TEEB report, an annual investment of $45 billion to biodiversity conservation worldwide could safeguard about $5 trillion in ecosystem services - a benefit to cost ratio of 100 to 1.

For a site-specific example, in Southern Thailand converting mangroves into commercial shrimp farms yields financial returns of about $1,220 per hectare per year. However, this does not consider the rehabilitation costs of $9,318 per hectare necessary when the area has been "shrimped out" after five or ten years. Other economic benefits the mangroves provide include: collected wood and other forest products; cultivation for off-shore fisheries; and coastal protection against storms, a total of $12,392 per hectare over the course of nine years. If the developer were accountable for the mangrove depletion, would you still want to invest in that shrimp farm?

"The reason we're losing natural capital is because it's free," says Ed Barbier, noting that we often think of conservation in terms of its costs rather than its value, and regard manufactured goods in terms of value rather than their environmental costs. Says Barbier: "When we incorporate the services of ecosystems we may start to think: maybe the costs of maintaining [the integrity of] ecosystems aren't that high compared with the benefits. Maybe the gains we get out of converting nature into commodities are not so large in comparison. The point is that we don't see that tradeoff until we go out and measure that value."

See the best business deals of 2009.

See the worst business deals of 2009.

The challenge is that our business institutions evolved at a time when nature seemed limitless; the idea of endless natural bounty is embedded within our national identity. "In the past, natural resources were abundant," says Robert Costanza, Director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont. "We've used up all the frontier. Those days are gone. People are recognizing this, but our institutions haven't caught up." So markets continue to ignore natural capital as if it's of no economic consequence.

Right now, he explains, there is an expectation of free and open access to nature. However, its use affects everyone. For example, unless an area is specifically regulated, someone can clear-cut a hardwood forest in a developing nation for the timber. But losing that forest also means the loss of habitat for wildlife, other forest products for food and shelter, soil fertility - plus numerous other functions, including climate regulation, which are not yet completely understood. (See the top 10 scientific discoveries of 2009.)

There have been other efforts to value ecosystem benefits, notably by British economist David Pearce, through his book Blueprint For a Green Economy, which was influential in the 1990s. (Professor Barbier was a coauthor.) What's different now is the urgency - we get news of nature disappearing every day - and new tools for measuring value, since research on ecosystems and valuation metrics have been evolving steadily over the last 20 years. Through programs like the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, drawing on the work of more than 1,360 experts worldwide, the economic value of biodiversity - which, alas, is often determined after its loss - is becoming more apparent.

According to Costanza, we need different institutions for managing natural capital because of its "public good" aspects. For example, there are systems of payments for ecosystem services, such as compensating farmers who plant trees for carbon sequestration. These could be embedded in common asset trusts, set up to assign property rights to the community rather than private hands. Those who damage ecosystem services would be charged, while those whose land produces services could be paid. Economic incentives can encourage people to preserve natural assets. For example, in Costa Rica U.S. pharmaceutical companies are paying landowners to conserve their properties - essentially maintaining a genetic laboratory in an area with great natural wealth. (About half of manufactured drugs derive from materials found in nature.) "Costa Rica has been a laboratory in strategies for making money while saving the environment," says Barbier.

While such economic arrangements hold great promise, Barbier warns that focusing on one "ecosystem service" - as opposed to grappling with complex systems and interactions - can distort value. He also notes that payments may not cover all the costs of preservation, particularly in the short term. But they may, for instance, pay for running conservation programs, or supplement the income of people who live in the area.

The renewed interest in valuing nature gives Barbier some optimism. "If through scientific and economic analysis we can show the benefits that the natural environment offers, and show that the economic value is not zero, this gives policy makers a vehicle for addressing our fragile ecosystems," he says.

Pavan Sukhdev observes, "The loss of forests worldwide amounts to somewhere between $2 trillion and $4.5 trillion a year. Losses in the U.S financial sector [in the economic downturn] were between $1 and 1.5 trillion. But the banks made the headlines."

And, one might add, got bailed out.

NOTICE:  In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed, without profit, for research and educational purposes only.   ***

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Primer on Ecological Restoration - SER International

"There is now a growing realization that we will not be able to conserve the earth's biological diversity thorough the protection of critical areas alone.

Ecological restoration needs to address four elements. These elements are critical to successful ecosystem management. Ecological restoration should
1- improve diversity conservation
2- improve human livelihoods
3- empower local people
4 - improve ecosystem productivity

This means ecological restoration can be a primary component of conservation and sustainable development. What makes ecological restoration uniquely valuable is its inherent capacity to provide people with the opportunity not only to repair ecological damage, but also to improve the human condition. The conservation benefits of restoration are obvious. What is less apparent, but which is at least as important, is that in many instances, ecological restoration has also been able to renew economic opportunities, rejuvenate traditional cultural practices and refocus the aspirations of local communities."

Source: Society for Ecological Restoration International and the ICUM Commission on Ecosystem Management.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Saul Bass: On Making Money vs Quality of Work

Want to be green? Leave the Prius at Home

Architect's urban living guide doesn't include cars

Want to be green? Dump the cul-de-sac. Ban the mall. Leave the Prius at home. The best thing you can do for the environment is to push for dense, compact, attractive and walkable urban neighborhoods that mix homes, shops and offices, just like we used to.

That, in a sharpened nutshell, is the message delivered by The Smart Growth Manual (McGraw-Hill Professional, $24.95), an intentionally slim, readable, well-illustrated and portable how-to guide co-written by Miami architect, planner and pioneering anti-sprawl combatant Andrés Duany.
``The bumper-sticker problem of environmentalism is one of the things we're trying to mitigate, the search for the silver bullet,'' Duany said. ``The idea that we just make all the buildings green, or make every car electric, and we'll be OK -- it's not enough.''

You can read the rest of the article here. If you share the sentiment sign a petition.

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Quotation - Write What Should Not Be Forgotten

Isabel Allende said, “Write what should not be forgotten.” 
Write a list of what should not be forgotten in your life: people, experiences, pets, sensations, moments, things, whatever comes to your mind even if it makes no sense.Weave your list together like tapestry.. or pick one of those things and write prose, poetry, essay or dialog.

Thought of the Day

Shake It Off and Take a Step UP
Author Unkown.

One day a farmer's donkey fell into an abandoned well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old and the well needed to be covered up anyway; so it just wasn't worth it to him to try to retrieve the donkey.

He invited all his neighbours to come over and help him. They each grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. Realising what was happening, the donkey at first cried and wailed horribly. Then, a few shovelfuls later, he quieted down completely.

The farmer peered down into the well, and was astounded by what he saw. With every shovelful of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing some thing amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up on the new layer of dirt. As the farmer's neighbours continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up.

Pretty soon, the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and trotted off, to the shock and astonishment of all the neighbours. Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to not let it bury you, but to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a stepping stone.
We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up! Shake it off and take a step up!

The moral to the story is very simple. Life is going to shovel dirt at you. You have two choices:
You can be buried alive by the dirt life throws at you.
You can shake it off and step up.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Road Salt Poisoning Water Bodies - University of Toronto Study

Road salt is poisoning water bodies, study finds
     During winter thaws, some streams have salinity levels just under those found in the ocean

From Friday's Globe and Mail Published on Friday, Mar. 05, 2010 12:00AM EST

One of the most detailed investigations ever conducted in Canada into the fate of road salt has found that it is polluting groundwater and causing some streams during winter thaws to have salinity levels just under those found in the ocean.

The elevated salt readings were detected in Pickering, where researchers from the University of Toronto have been studying how the salt spread on highways, such as the 401, and other roadways through suburban sprawl affects water quality. They found that so much salty water from the community is ending up in Frenchman's Bay, a scenic lagoon on the shores of Lake Ontario, that the small water body is being poisoned.

"Our findings are pretty dramatic, and the effects are felt year-round," said Nick Eyles, a geology professor at the university and the lead researcher on the project. "We now know that 3,600 tonnes of road salt end up in that small lagoon every winter from direct runoff in creeks and effectively poison it for the rest of the year."

He called the findings, which were published recently in the journal Sedimentary Geology, "a really bad-news story" involving a "relentless chemical assault on a watershed."

The Pickering area provided researchers with an ideal place to study the effects of road-salt spreading, because most of the city lies within a relatively compact 27-square-kilometre watershed, where it was easy for pollution monitors to track where salt spread on roads ended up.

About 7,600 tonnes of salt is applied each year to roads in the community. About half of this amount seeps into groundwater, which in turn flows into streams year-round, making the water courses more salty than they should be, according to the research. The rest drains into Frenchman's Bay, which is visible to commuters on the 401 and has a struggling fish population because salt levels are more than double the amounts typically found in the Great Lakes.

The salt water "knocks out fish," Dr. Eyles said, adding that in the most contaminated areas, only older fish can survive, while younger ones move to areas of the lagoon closer to Lake Ontario and its fresher water.

The finding of major impacts on Pickering's ground and surface water suggests a far greater toll from the use of salt elsewhere across Canada, where an estimated five million tonnes, or approximately 150 kilograms per Canadian, is used on roads each year to make them safe for travel in winter. The vast majority is applied in Ontario and Quebec.

"It's a general problem. ... There are lots of other areas like this," Dr. Eyles said, referring to the Pickering findings.

Environment Canada has recognized that salt has adverse impacts on wildlife, plants, water and soil, and in 2001 considered adding it to the country's list of the most toxic substances. Instead, in 2004, the government instituted a voluntary code of practices to encourage municipalities and others to use the de-icer more sparingly, while maintaining highway safety. But with the vast amount used, huge quantities are still polluting soil and water, according to Dr. Eyles.

"It's a toxic material and yet we continue to throw it with gay abandon on our roads," he said.

The University of Toronto research was based on water monitoring between May, 2002, and March, 2003, before the code went into effect.

It noted that after winter thaws, there were spikes in the amount of salt in streams, with those taking runoff from the 401 having approximately double the concentration of the pollutant than watercourses nearby that don't take its storm water. Runoff from the highway, Canada's busiest, also contains benzene, toluene, and xylene, hydrocarbons associated with contamination from underground gasoline storage tanks.

Environment Canada says it is currently reviewing whether the voluntary practices code has led to any reduction in the amount of salt being spread on roads. "If it is concluded, based on the review of progress, that other steps are needed for the management of road salts, Environment Canada will consider a range of possible options," the department said in reaction to the study.

***   NOTICE:  In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed, without profit, for research and educational purposes only.   ***

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Rare Bird Alert

Thursday, March 4, 2010

 Dial-a-Bird is a service provided by your Buffalo Museum of Science and the Buffalo Ornithological Society. Press (2) to leave a message, (3) for updates, meeting and field trip information and (4) for instructions on how to report sightings. To contact the Science Museum, call 896-5200.

 Highlights of reports received February 25 through March 4 from the Niagara Frontier Region include EARED GREBE, PEREGRINE FALCON, YELLOW-R. WARBLER, RED-W. BLACKBIRD and COMMON GRACKLE.

 The EARED GREBE at Dunkirk Harbor was still present on March 4. Also of note in the harbor, 2 HORNED GREBES, 6 LESSER SCAUP, 204 BUFFLEHEADS and 4 sub-adult BALD EAGLES.

 On the upper Niagara River, over 20,000 waterfowl, including abundant CANVASBACKS and GREATER SCAUP, continue off Beaver Island State Park, Motor Island and Strawberry Island. Several reports of a pair of adult BALD EAGLES at Beaver Island, Strawberry Island and the south Grand Island bridge. Also a sub-adult BALD EAGLE at Beaver Island and Navy Island.

 February 28, a pair of PEREGRINE FALCONS, exchanging calls, at the Ontario Street boat launch in Buffalo's Riverside. PEREGRINE FALCON also at Beaver Island on the 4th. And in Amherst, March 3, a PEREGRINE FALCON between two plastic owl decoys atop St. Benedicts Church at Main and Eggert Road.

 For three weeks, 2 YELLOW-R. WARBLERS at a corn meal and peanut butter feeder on Silver Road in the Genesee County Town of Bethany. Also in Bethany, mixed flocks of HORNED LARKS and SNOW BUNTINGS on McLernon Road, BROWN CREEPER and NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD on Francis Road, and in Genesee County Park, NOR. SAW-WHET OWL and GREAT HORNED OWL were heard calling the night of February 27.

 In the Niagara County Town of Porter, HORNED LARKS singing along many of the roadsides, with small numbers of SNOW BUNTINGS.

 March 4, migrant RED-W. BLACKBIRD and COMMON GRACKLE returned to the Town of Tonawanda.

 Dial-a-Bird will be updated Thursday evening, March 11. Please call in your sightings by noon Thursday. You may report sightings after the tone. Thank you for calling and reporting to Dial-a-Bird.

- End Transcript