Thursday, May 29, 2008

George W. Bush -- the environmental president?

Much has been written and spoken about George W. Bush's abysmal record in environmental matters over the course of his presidency. Lawyer and environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, called Bush's environmental record the worst in history. Earlier this month it was revealed that he spurned accepted scientific data and the warnings of scientific professionals for politcal purposes. He has been a monument to irresponsible judgement in important matters concerning the planet, such as pollution control and climate change.

Now, however, President Bush is eyeing a sweeping measure that will create a gigantic marine reserve. Two areas are being looked at in the Pacific, as well as one in the Gulf of Mexico and one in the Atlantic. This will instantly become the largest creation of such a reserve in U.S. history, with a possible 600,000 square miles of protected ocean area in the Hawaiian Islands area alone. In doing so he hopes to establish his legacy as being a visionary in environmental regulation and preservation, and of course undoing a seven-year record of having done the exact opposite. I'm not sure I can truly forgive him for all that he has done that has been harmful to the environment, but the new marine reserve, if indeed it does come to pass, will certainly be to his credit. Comments welcome.

GM restarts electric vehicle program!

Awhile back I mentioned the movie Who Killed the Electric Car?, which chronicled the sad demise of GM's electric vehicle program, to the point where every single one of the experimental EV-1's was systematically repossessed from its owner and crushed or deactivated, effectively ending GM's brief foray into alternatively-fueled vehicles.

Last week, the cover story of Business Week magazine detailed how GM realizes that high gasoline prices are most likely here to stay, and that they are losing market share to companies like Toyota and Honda, whose alternatively-fueled vehicle businesses are thriving. The designers at GM are now frantically trying to make up for lost time by energetically pursuing development of new vehicles, including plug-in electrics and hybrids. It's an interesting mea culpa from what was once the largest company in the U.S., which is now suffering the same fate as the rest of the American auto industry, and it outlines the effort GM is putting into trying to not only catch up to the companies that have passed them in sales, but to once again become an innovator and an industry leader. The whole article can be viewed here. Recommended reading.

For those interested in the high-end electric vehicle market, check out the Tesla Roadster. No, I don't get a commission if you buy one!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Turkeys, again

Not too long ago I observed, in my neighbor's yard, an enormous rafter (look it up!) of wild turkeys -- possibly 20 of them! They had obviously found something delicious to eat, or amusing to do, as they kicked through the new grass on this woman's lawn. It was really pretty amazing; I don't think I'd ever seen a bunch that big before. Eight or ten, yes, but this was ridiculous! It was quite amazing to see. There were no displaying males; apparently there were several mothers with their young ambling slowly among the trees. I wished that I hadn't been in such a hurry at the time, I would have pulled up a bit and got a good, long look through my binoculars.

Now the other side of this coin is my bow hunter is also back. He had a shoulder injury of some kind last year and I didn't see him, but he pulled in early the other morning in a new pickup, ready to shoot a turkey or two to bring his family a good, fresh dinner. As usual, I was ambivalent about this. The guy seems to be okay; at least he's using a bow and arrow, far more sporting than a rifle; and I get the feeling there's quite a bit more chance involved, possibly because his bowmanship is not so good. I didn't suggest it; but you know, if it was Canada Geese he was after I wouldn't mind so much, since the geese seem to have a much greater population density. The turkeys are also so much more striking to look at, with their size and color. But once again I let it go, and wished him good luck. He doesn't want more than one or two, and I know he and his family are eating them (unlike a guy I once lived next door to in Gloucester who would shoot ducks and throw their carcasses in the trash). It's sad for me to think that any one of these beautiful birds would not be living out his natural life; but that is the way of the world, and we all must complete the circle somehow. One bird's life ends so that the hunters' may be extended. Seems that's how it's supposed to work.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

From Daily Kos: Dangerous corporate lobbyists

This may seem like an unusual inclusion for this blog, but I feel the article linked below is necessary reading for people who seek to learn more about some of the underhanded methods used by certain private interests in order to influence public policy in this country. Rather than attempt to reproduce or introduce any of it here, I'll just send you over to Daily Kos to read an excellent post:

What is to be done? Stay aware and informed, and write your representatives in Washington frequently to let them know you're paying attention; sign petitions and attend demonstrations; and don't ever give up your commitment to preserving American democracy.

My Spring Peepers are disappearing

There is a small pond slightly downhill from my house that every year has been home to hundreds of frogs -- peepers and bullfrogs that illuminate the evening with a cacaphony of song. I could always count on arriving home, when after dark, and being escorted up my walkway to my house by their musical racket. In the last few years, however, there has been a steady reduction in their numbers, as evidenced by the volume of their singing, such that this year they seem to be either very late, or absent altogether. The bullfrogs seem to come after the peepers, so perhaps they haven't arrived as yet. However, an article in the current issue of Defenders magazine, from Defenders of Wildlife, points out that amphibians such as frogs, salamanders, etc., are extremely sensitive to environmental stress and change, and that many species around the world are now in serious decline.

Is the disappearance of my Spring Peepers, as well as the rest of the world's amphibians, the proverbial "canary in the coal mine", a warning to us all that climate change is real, and that it's time for some serious thought about how to protect the environment -- for the frogs' sake, and for our own? I suspect that it is.

Read the above-mentioned article here. Comments welcome.

To the readers of The Natural World

I want to apologize for leaving this blog unattended for so long. I didn't think many people were paying attention to it, so it was put on the back burner for awhile. As it turns out, some people have been been looking in, and I have received some comments on it. I'm glad people are finding it useful. I've been meaning to start up again with a more personal focus, things more in line with personal experience as opposed to more general posts on green living, but I thought I would open it to readers to see what you preferred: would you rather see more posts on, say, my personal bird and wildlife sightings and my life in the Topsfield woods, or would you prefer I do a little research and write or post more about the larger world from an eco-friendly point of view? Originally, my idea was to include both as part of a whole, but if there's a strong preference for one over the other, I'd be happy to focus on that for awhile.

Please write to the address in the profile, or leave comments on the blog. I'll post any comments that are on topic and not offensive to anyone. And thanks for your interest!