Monday, December 24, 2007

down it comes

Down it
comes, large flakes,☼
building drifts, the best
part, * the wind blowing
“snow snakes”, across
the street and school playground,
just۞as I remember it always
was. Amid the bustle of early-winter chores.
we’ve watched۝ this snow piling up
for hours. The snow and these thoughts remind us:
autumn has departed. The newly-arrived۩ guest,
winter, seeks how to make her presence known.
Where did ۞you grow up? What was it
like, when you were a child at this time of year?
Did you wait in hiding for Santa and build snow forts in the yard? Or, are cookies
what you remember۝ most? Memories seem solidly strong,
but they can slip away, like those snow drifts, with the wind. What could be
more substantial? Our wish for you involves many ۩ seemingly insubstantial things
that the world at large may judge as lacking, next to material wealth, or the strength of armies.
Among these things, count truth as well as friendship, honor۞, and honest work;
and count ¤the last thing anyone might have expected to
have lasting ۝power: the Christmas message of love and light and grace.
You are the only one who can see the light in your own life. But those
who know
you well
can remind
you that
it is there,
and that
it does not
go out.

Wm. P. Mueller; 2007

Saturday, December 22, 2007

what about next year?

There are so many global, hemispheric, and regional conservation issues and directions to point in, to increase awareness about, it is really quite overwhelming. To list just a few places to learn more about conservation issues, try these (a list with links is just below) for a start, in 2008. Really make a difference; pick one or a few, learn about the issues, and get involved. It can be as simple as making a donation - maybe you don't have time for anything else. On the other hand, maybe you've always wanted to do more, but did not know how or where or why. Here are some good places to start:

Conservation International -- learn about international conservation campaigns, conservation biology, and learn how to take action at this link.

BirdLife International: more ways to learn about issues, and how to get involved.

Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network - what we're learning about these long-distance migrants, and how to protect them and their habitats.

Boreal Songbird Initiative - closer to home; what the issues are across North America's boreal forest.

Bird Conservation Alliance - the "network of organizations that focus on bird conservation, study, education, observation, and advocacy" - how could your organization fit in?

If you're thinking that New Guinea, or northern Ontario, or Venezuela, or Madagascar are pretty far away, you're right. But any one of the habitats in any one of those places is just as much "home" for the animals and birds that live there as your neighborhood is to you.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

conifers and winter

Within the branches of coniferous trees in winter lies another world, one of dramatic cold-weather plant physiology and ecology, dormant insects, nearly constant shade, roosting or feeding birds, patterns of snow, and the interplay of light and dark. Learn more about the coniferous forest biome here. Conifers provide safe daylight roosts for many owl species, for example...but only if we leave them alone.

They Owe Her

They Owe Her

The mourning doves in my neighborhood are building
a monument to my wife. She is, they know, the one who
provides. She is the source of seeds.
The twenty-one doves know, and honor, her. After all,
in the break-open cold of dawn, this is the place, the
mourning dove restaurant.
The youngest and smallest wait their turn. When the others
have eaten, there is still enough. They know, and they owe
a debt. But Leah, the one who provides:
is she re-paying a debt, too?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

inner city owl

In Milwaukee's inner city, there are many problems. Lots of these problems are related to human greed and indifference, racism, selfishness, and intolerance. To top all of that off, there isn't much space left for wildlife. That's not surprising - many major cities are no different. But Milwaukee (County) has a park system still having much to offer, and in some areas, wildlife still can find a place.

Today was the day for the Milwaukee Christmas Bird Count. My absolute good fortune led me to this Long-eared Owl, in dense brush and a row of trees along a creek, during a steady snowfall. While I've found this species in Milwaukee County before, I don't find one every year, and it is always a wonderful find - a gift, in fact.
Long-eared owls may be in decline - there is much we don't know about their populations. It's a relatively cosmopolitan species, circumboreal in distribution (found around the northern hemisphere). The raptor trappers at Hawk Ridge have caught fewer in their banding nets as the years have passed - that seems ominous to me, but as I mentioned above, there is much we still have to learn about them, and about their numbers. They are secretive, not easily censused, and don't respond well to tapes. In fact, of the times I have heard them on nocturnal surveys, they have occasionally responded to a tape of a screech-owl - not to a tape of a long-ear vocalization. It has often seemed as though they are stimulated to call by the screech-owl tape, but that they seem to realize that they "made a mistake", and they immediately stop calling. This individual was found in the late morning, however - no tapes were used.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

changing migrations

The ecologist David Wilcove of Princeton has recently completed a new book. No Way Home (Island Press) describes the declining phenomenon of animal migration, in addition to telling the reader about many types of migration and what has been learned about it. Hear a fascinating radio interview with Wilcove here.

Monday, December 10, 2007

news - 12/10/2007

A conference hosted by the Wisconsin Wetlands Association is coming up. "In 2008, Wisconsin Wetlands Association will convene members of the regional wetland community for our 13th annual conference to discuss the latest in wetland science, management, restoration and protection issues as they relate to anthropogenic alterations that affect wetlands. The program for this 2-day conference will have a special focus on the theme Wetlands in the 21st Century: Altered Landscapes and Changing Climates." See more at this link.


See the newly-updatedwebsite of the American Bird Conservancy, here. Learn about their programs and work to promote bird conservation across the Americas. Watch a great new video from the Bird News Network here.


While checking the "North American Landbird Conservation Plan" published by Partners in Flight (the consortium of wildlife agencies and other entities), I happened to look through a table listing the approximate population sizes for landbirds on this continent. The population numbers are arrived at through a multi-step process utilizing BBS data. I expected Red-winged Blackbird to be number 1, with the largest population. But while that may have been true some years ago, it no longer is the case.

Can you guess which species is most abundant? Hints:

a) it has a very wide distribution throughout the United States and Canada
b) it does NOT normally come to feeders
c) we usually find some on the CBCs in Wisconsin, but the majority of individuals have left the state by the CBC period

Friday, December 7, 2007

protect boreal forest birds

Across Canada's boreal forest, home to millions of breeding songbirds, logging for fiber to make toilet paper and catalogs is a huge industry. Alternatives in the form of recycled fiber can save a LOT of habitat for birds and other boreal forest species. To learn more, go the "take action" page of the Boreal Songbird Initiative, here, and scroll about halfway down the page. When you've read about toilet paper, catalogs, and book publishing, click on any of the pertinent links there to learn how to take action.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

How climate change will affect humans - the link to poverty

Take action, with Oxfam America. "The Senate is currently debating the bipartisan bill, America's Climate Security Act of 2007, which is supposed to tackle the problem of global warming." Go to Oxfam's site to send an e-mail to your senators, here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

conserv. news 12-4

From the most recent Birding Community E-Bulletin:

"WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH WINTER WHEAT? Winter wheat, planted in the fall and harvested the following July, is beginning to draw attention from bird-observers, simply because it's beginning to draw attention from the birds. Increasingly, there is evidence that winter wheat, especially in the American Great Plains and the Canadian Prairie Provinces, may be improving things for certain bird species. Ducks and Ring-necked Pheasants seem to be doing well nesting in winter wheat fields, and Long-billed Curlews, Marbled Godwits, and Willets have also increasingly been found in wheat fields at nesting season. Even certain grassland songbirds seem to be taking to winter wheat cultivation.

When the nesting-season starts for many species, winter wheat has already had a head start growing, and is ready to provide nesting cover for grassland birds early in the season. By the time winter wheat harvest begins, in mid-July in the Dakotas, for example, young birds nesting in the wheat fields are either developed enough to avoid harvest combines, or else have already fledged from the fields. In contrast, alfalfa, which reaches harvest height in May, is typically cut within the first 10 days of June - a dismal predicament for nesting birds and young in areas like the Dakotas. Marbled Godwits have also recently been found nesting in other crops, such as several other varieties of cereal grain crops, flax, and stubble fields of these same crops; however, the winter wheat appears to be the most promising.

U.S. farmers annually plant about 40 million acres in winter wheat. Across Canada, more than 1.2 million acres of winter wheat is grown. Is this great for birds? No, it's a monoculture. Nevertheless, it is a somewhat attractive crop , and one that usually reaches a suitable height at the right time of year to benefit breeding birds. It is a crop that won't be harvested until most nesting birds safely fledged their young. . Winter wheat will never be a substitute for idled grassland, like CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) land, but if cropland goes into a rotation with winter wheat, there may actually be some benefits for certain ground-nesting birds. (It should also be noted that farmers usually don't plant winter wheat in the same field in consecutive years.)

Right now it's unclear whether winter wheat is truly a win-win crop for both agriculture and bird conservation, but indications appear to be positive. Further evaluation is certainly warranted. For a Ducks Unlimited Canada summary of Long-billed Curlews nesting in winter wheat in Canada last spring, see: "

If you're interested in receiving this electronic newsletter, contact:

Wayne R. Petersen, Director Massachusetts Important Bird Areas (IBA) Program Mass Audubon 718/259-2178 OR Paul J. Baicich 410/992-9736

Past e-bulletins are at:


In southern Europe, trapping of songbirds for sale as food is illegal, but continues. Read about efforts to stop this practice here, at the site of the Committee Against Bird Slaughter.

Monday, December 3, 2007

new Scottish study on bird song and humans

A new study by researchers at Aberdeen University in Scotland "will spend two years listening to birds to find out how their songs, calls and cries become a part of people's lives".

Find out more here.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

the contrarian view?

As I get older, I often seem to hold a contrarian view on many topics under discussion by any particular group. I am often surrounded by death penalty advocates, homophobes, climate change skeptics, intelligent design aficianados, free market boosters, and the like. The thing that has puzzled me the most, recently, has been the growing group of birders who don't want to hear about conservation. This really has me baffled.

Many citizens are conservation-oriented far too seldom, and that is an ongoing source of frustration, for me. I keep wondering how we think our "bank account of birds" will stay robust unless we "make deposits and accrue interest" (as a species, we keep "spending the principal", and then are amazed that there is less in the bank every year...).

Thursday, November 29, 2007

climate change info - Worldwatch Institute

Newly-updated online information related to climate change can be found at the website of the Worldwatch Institute - see that part of their site, here.

If you do go to their site, take few minutes to look around at the many other resources available there, on topics such as food, global security, energy, consumption issues, and population issues. They also have a long list of excellent publications, many of which are available as downloads, including their annual "State of the World". See more on the publications here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

conserv. news 11-28

A new Audubon Watchlist is now out. One hundred seventy-eight species in the continental U.S. and 39 in Hawaii are included on this "list of America’s most imperiled birds. WatchList 2007, a joint effort of Audubon and American Bird Conservancy, reflects a comprehensive analysis of population size and trends, distribution, and threats for 700 bird species in the U.S."

See it at this link.


Also bird conservation-related, read the most wonderful article I have seen in years in this month's (December) National Geographic: "On the Wings of the Albatross", written by Carl Safina, with photographs by Frans Lanting. Safina's article is incredibly good, and Lanting is one of the world's most accomplished wildlife photographers. Some sections are at National Geographic's website, here.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Among All These Versions of the Truth

Among All These Versions of the Truth
The world is a miraculous space.
In the life I have been given,
I am poised to see it.
Everyone looks at the quetzal’s tail,
but I look at the belly…
trying to see the heart beating…
his heart is like mine.

Let me always remember,
May my prayer always be to remember…
let there be no human chauvinism within me!
Let me see the world and all life within it
as neighbor and ally.
Only if I reexamine my own life
under the magnifying lens of truth
will I know that
I am only an equal member, and nothing more.
Knowing only this as certainty…may I live it and breathe it!
Once knowing, then acting -
may I practice it and make it part of my flesh.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

bird conserv. news 11-24

Birds in Canada's boreal forest recently received an assist from the Canadian government, which is protecting 25 million acres from future industrial uses such as logging and mining. Lauded by groups such as the Boreal Songbird Initiative and Bird Studies Canada, this move will allow for preservation of "critical breeding and feeding grounds for millions of migratory birds".

Read more at BirdLife International's website.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

bird conservation in the upper Midwest

Regional organizations in the Midwest who are doing excellent work on avian conservation issues include:

The Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative

Illinois' Bird Conservation Network

Audubon Minnesota

The Michigan Bird Conservation Initiative

Go to any of the sites linked above to learn more about programs and accomplishments of these groups.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

another bird conservation info source

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a webpage devoted to migratory bird conservation info and data. The Migratory Bird Data Center page is here.

By accessing various databases at this site, I was for example able to learn that 69,840 federal duck stamps were purchased in Wisconsin in a recent year (2003 was the year I chose).

I was also able to easily access links to bird abundance maps. To choose one for the Boreal Chickadee, for example, I went to this link - which helps me to understand why we see so few of them in Wisconsin. Most of their range is north of us. To see the entire list of links to abundance maps, go here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

plans for recovery of Red-headed Woodpecker populations

I did my masters thesis on the decline of the Red-headed Woodpecker. So, the news that an effort to restore Red-headed Woodpecker populations is starting in Minnesota is good news as far as I am concerned. Read more about this new and growing initiative at this site,

Sunday, November 18, 2007

mentors and teachers

Gary Snyder, the great poet, essayist, deep ecologist, and Zen Buddhist has a new book: Back On the the Fire, published recently by Shoemaker & Hoard. It is yet another shining example of his years of amazing work (now 19 books altogether). Snyder is surely one of my mentors/teachers, although I have never come close to meeting him.

If you're curious about Snyder and have never read any of his work, see some background at these sites: here, here, and here.

Yet another mentor/teacher of mine (and another one I've never met), is the author Matthew Fox. Without these teachers, I can't imagine how I'd have a unified view of the past, the present, or the future.

More on Matt Fox can be found here, here, and here.

conservation information, aside from other types of information on this blog

Bird conservation information will appear here regularly, but it is of course also available at several of the sites listed in the sidebar on the right. The names of the organizations should easily lead readers to the kinds of information they are seeking.

I often write about other topics, here, however - and anyone wishing for just bird conservation information only would be well-advised to bookmark some of the sites originating from national and regional sources. Some of those, and others not already listed on the right are as follows:

NABCI, the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, has a very worthwhile site; check it often. See it here.

The bird conservation part of the National Audubon Society can be found here.

David Sibley's experiments with window glass; other related information

David Sibley, famous bird field guide author and artist, is working on some very interesting experiments attempting to reduce the number of birds having window collisions. Read more about it at his blog, here.

To see more about how to reduce collisions, see information at the website of the Wisconsin Humane Society, here.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

climate change information from climate scientists

I often receive information from people who still doubt the consensus on climate change. Recently a friend sent a link to yet another article about some "authority" who claims climate change is bunk. What I wonder is this: why is it that it is so easy to believe people who are TV "journalists", fiction writers, (or TV meteorologists), radio talk show hosts, and all others of that ilk, who have no advanced training in science (a PhD and years of work should carry some weight, but apparently not in modern-day America, where there is little respect for intellectual pusuits, and even a disdain for science or scholarship!), but not the words of the people who have really done the work? If I have a heart attack, do I ask a plumber for answers about what to do? I think the answer must be yes for many people today. Meanwhile, lots of other folks around the planet are moving forward with strategies to deal with cllimate change, instead of arguing about whether it exists. My prediction: we'll be last in line.

If you want to read information from trained people, engaged in real science focusing on climate, go to the RealClimate blog.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

a fine book on bird migration

I've been reading a fine book, Songbird Journeys, by Miyoko Chu, published in 2006 by Walker & Co., New York. Even if you're an advanced birder who has been studying and reading about migration for a long time, you will find something of interest in this book. Along with a description of many research projects focused on bird migration, there are sections on migration "hot-spots", citizen-science, resources, a detailed bibliography and notes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ethics and the preservation of biodiversity

In the quest to reach across cultural, religious, and intellectual boundaries, see this excellent online chapter-by-chapter set of pdfs from the book “Ethics for a Small Planet: A Communications Handbook on the Ethical and Theological Reasons for Protecting Biodiversity”, published by the Biodiversity Project, in Madison, WI.

Why bother? Here’s author Jane Elder’s opening statement in chapter one:

“Why step into the murky world of values, ethics, moral perspectives, and theological viewpoints? Why not stick to the facts, the purely rational? Why? Because humans are
complex beings, and we make decisions about what to do, about what is right and wrong, through a mix of thought and feeling, rational argument and intuition, head and heart, data and gut instinct.”

Find this at this link, on the website of the Biodiversity Project.

Monday, November 12, 2007

There is another way

Although many of us feel despair about the direction of globalization and the actions of huge corporations, there IS another way.

Much attention has been paid to this recently; that in itself is hopeful. Here are some sources that seem to point in valuable new directions:

Ethical Corporation magazine (yes, I know...but their logo actually says that is "not an oxymoron)...

A wonderful artist-photographer ( Chris Jordan) and his work on consumerism; see a video of him discussing and displaying his work, here... and an interview with him, here.

A recent article on some companies with different corporate values in Yes! magazine, here, and a related article, here.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Climate Counts, and carbon offset information

You may share my deep concern about the issue of climate change in a broad sense - if that's true, see the following sources for more information.

One of the potentially useful organizations and sites I've found is Climate Counts. If you spend only a few minutes reading through the information on their site, you may agree.

I'm committed to learning more about this topic and sharing what I learn.

As one example, I'm concerned about the use of carbon offsets and their real value, but as the following paper mentions, it is probably not useful to entirely discount their usefulness or appropriateness. I have not yet read all the way through this document yet, but it looks very worthwhile.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Costa Rica and New Zealand lead the way toward a carbon-neutral future

Costa Rica and New Zealand are on the path to a carbon neutral future, and they lead the rest of the world. While they are admittedly small nations, they are taking bold steps toward complete use of alternative energy, abnd the elimination of emission of greenhouse gases; read more at the site of Worldwatch Institute, here.

Friday, November 9, 2007

avian research entities

Around the world, a wide array of research entities are conducting avian research ranging from breeding bird studies, to work on migrants and their movements and stopover ecology, and studies on birds on their wintering grounds. Many of these entities need support, whether as monetary donations or citizen involvement. Just a small sample are mentioned below.

Learn about the varied work of the Institute for Bird Populations at their site, here.

Information about the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology is here.

Read about one of western North America's foremost ornithological research and conservation organizations, the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, here.

Closer to us midwesterners are Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, and the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Why do we think the natural world is beautiful?

The Department of Philosophy at the University of North Texas is a hotbed of environmental ethics. They publish the journal by that name, for one thing, and the faculty there includes several of the most distinguished environmental philosophers in the world (Eugene Hargrove, J. Baird Callicott).

Although this has been on the web for some time, you may never have seen it. See a slide show that accompanies one of Prof. Hargrove's lectures, here, concerning why we think nature is beautiful.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

British bird news

Two bits of British bird news:

British birds have had their worst breeding season ever during 2007, due especially to bad weather in early summer. See more about this story here.

News today from the Outer Hebrides, (officially known by the Gaelic name, Na h-Eileanan Siar) an island chain off the west coast of Scotland - a Mourning Dove was reported there today. This common North American species is very rare on that side of the Atlantic.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

No Lament

Taste the bitterness of disappointment:
why has this been true for me for so long?
It has been an awkwardly-received gift to me,
to help me learn compassion –
all those before me, and all those around this planet,
who have no options;
they know.

I have my family; they constitute my riches.
Along with the land, water, and sky –
all of which belongs to no one and everyone.
The trees of spring, summer, and fall, they stand witness.
Spring or summer or fall, their multitude of
leaves covering the black branches, and the ground beneath.
Rivers and creeks with their beds of stones or mud;
the wetlands, rich with a fecundity of aquatic plants;
grasslands, and the flowers and grasses surrounding all.

Amid all this, the many animals, birds, fishes;
why would I need to even remind myself of them?
They fill my life with wealth: a value unknowable.

Then I count up the many other sources
that lie abundantly to my right and left:
And I can still find plenty to eat.
It’s true; there’s plenty of food, indeed more than I
could ever need…
books, and enough clothing, blankets on cold nights.
A raincoat, and bags to carry my tools.
And the music fills my ears and the air.
So why is there any reason to lament?
After all, I have taught myself, in a few moments,
all my many reasons for gratitude.

11/6/2007. wpm.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The "Climate Bird Count"?

Just arrived today: The new CBC issue of American Birds, Volume 61.

If you don't receive this publication, interesting articles include one on
the 2007 WatchList for United States Birds, and an article by Scott
Weidensaul, entitled "CBC: The Climate Bird Count?" Weidensaul describes
how Dan Niven, Audubon's senior scientist for bird conservation, along with
a team, will combine many decades'-worth of data from both CBCs and the BBS
to examine the "picture of how climate change is affecting North America's
birds". In this article, Weidensaul quotes Greg Butcher, Audubon's
director of bird conservation: "So one thing we want to do is a threat
analysis, both for Important Bird Areas and WathList species, to look at
which sites and which birds are most vulnerable to climate change".
See more on the 107th CBC at this link.

new online articles from Orion, Grist, and E! Magazine

Two new online articles from the journal Orion are of interest.

See Jennifer Oladipo's "Global Warming is Colorblind" here.

Then, see Bill McKibben's "The Unsung Solution" here.

If you're not familiar with Orion, you're missing some thing very worthwhile. See more about this extraordinary publication at their website, here.

More good online reading can be found at Grist magazine's site, here.

And more still at the site of E - The Environmental Magazine, here.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

leading toward the future of renewable energy

Germany is jumping ahead of other countries in its plans to provide for its energy needs. With a goal of 45% of their energy produced by renewables by 2030, it leads everyone else. Read more at the Worldwatch Institute's site, here.

In case you did not know about it, Wisconsin also has plans to move ahead in this area. Read more about the plans here.

Although the U.S. gov't lags behind, there ARE things happening on the federal level - see the DOE's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy page, here.

Friday, November 2, 2007

learn more about Arctic regions

Want to learn more about Arctic regions? The arctic is experiencing the most rapid environmental and ecological changes of any region on earth. To learn more, go to the Arctic Portal.

For an in-depth document on conservation in the arctic, go here. I highly recommend at least scrolling through this document; you will be amazed by the extent of decline in murres, increasing arctic pollution, the spread of oil exploitation infrastructure, and many other issues.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

new information on birds and climate change

Here are a set of links and additional conservation-related information found during recent internet searches:

Biologists Look At Climate Change Effect on Shorebirds - New Hampshire Public Radio here.

A book on birds and the effects of climate change:
MOLLER, A., W. FIEDLER, and P. BERTHOLD, Editors. Birds and Climate Change. Elsevier/Academic Press, 2004. Advances in Ecological Research Series No. 35. 259 pp.

British Trust for Ornithology, 2005. BTO Reserach Report 414 - Climate Change and Migratory Species. Gp to this link.

A paper in the journal Global Change Biology. 2004. Ahola, M. Ilaaksonen, K. Sippola, T. Eeva, K. Raino, and E. Lehikoinen. (10): 1610–1617. Variation in climate warming along the migration route uncouples arrival and breeding dates.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

disappearance of the Rusty Blackbird

The Rusty Blackbird is one of the fastest-disappearing bird species in North America. It has declined dramatically in the last 30+ years. To learn more about this decline, and to get involved in study of this species or assist in other ways, see the Smithsonian Institution webpages devoted to this topic, here.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

the decline of bees

Bee species are in decline, and the pollination services they provide are at risk. Read more at Conservation International's site, here. More about bees can be found at this link.

Read more (or listen) to several older reports on bees at the following sites: an NPR report on bees is here. Still more on the declines can be found at the National Geographic site, here.

still fighting over the redwoods after all these years

A 29,000 acre section of redwoods is in the hands of mediators in a long-overdue disposition of the fate of these 2,000-year-old trees. Protestors lived in these trees during the 1990s to attempt to prevent their harvest. See more here.

Why do we still not recognize these trees as vital to our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being? I don't understand why that is still debated. It seems we should be past that, by now.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

the next version of capitalism?

A great read, an online section from Chapter One of the recent book Capitalism 3.0: A Guide to Reclaiming the Commons, by Peter Barnes, is here.

It's hard to do this justice without a photo

Today I spent some time along the Lake Michigan shoreline, looking for late October migrants. While my success was somewhat limited ( I stayed in Milwaukee County, and posts on the Wisconsin Birding List show that points north of Milwaukee were somewhat more productive today). But I managed to see approx. 10 Common Loons offshore from the well-known lakewatch spot known as North Point (near Milwaukee's Bradford Beach). There were also a few Horned Grebes, about a hundred each of Mallards and Gadwalls, a few Northern Shovelers, American Black Ducks, several dozen Buffleheads, the ever-present Ring-billed and Herring Gulls. North of this location at Doctor's Park, the waterfowl present were similar but also included 6 White-winged Scoters, some flocks of Greater Scaup, and some Red-breasted Mergansers. If you've never watched loons and diving waterfowl well offshore in the Great Lakes, it's not at all like searching for landbirds. Until the sun came out after noon, the sky was leaden, it was blowing hard from the northwest, and the lake had that look of hammered steel. The loons were FAR offshore. You could look at excellent photos of the Common Loon like the ones Mike McDowell makes (this is an example), but this gives you a close-up view. That's a great view, but the birds I was studying were hundreds of meters offshore, moving at a good clip southward. Loons in flight really look distinctively different from waterfowl. Their heads are held lower than the body as they fly (here's an example online from Cornell, with a photo by B.L. Sullivan). Wish I had a photo of my own to illustrate what I was seeing, but alas, no such luck.

I've chosen to at least partially limit my birding to locations closer to home, at least for the majority of the time. I'm finding this creates some obstacles in communication with other birders who question or disagree with this approach. I'm hopeful it won't stay that way. There are some uncomfortable silences in some situations. Obviously, our choices are different, and that can create misunderstanding. But again, I'm hopeful that this will change over time. We can have a dialogue, and maybe foster understanding and the exchange of ideas, with a willingness to be open to the ideas of others. And that obviously goes for me, too! I am humbled every day by all that I don't know.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

soon they will be gone

It's only a matter of a few weeks, and these autumn leaves will be down. The remaining green leaves will be changing within another week or so at this latitude. And along with them, the final weeks of passage of warblers, thrushes, and vireos, with many raptors, some late shorebirds, and some waterfowl along with them. Of course there are many bird species still to come through this area, including the later sparrows, loons, and the remaining raptors and waterfowl. These latter groups are still migrating through well into November. And then the landscape takes on more subtle tones. Each day in the flow of autumn's time has its gifts to offer. And each day the air seems slightly different, though recent autumns seem to hold more warm days, and some migrants delay leaving longer than they did in the past. These are not "good" changes, but we are bound to witness them, now. Along with the changing angle of the sunlight, autumn's progress continues inexorably here. I could "feel it" in the night sky, too, with Orion now prominent above, and an October wind blowing.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

What if?

What if we acted as if nature really mattered? Back in 1990, while riding on the Bay Area rapid transit (the BART) system to a temporary carpenter's helper gig in San Francisco, I was reading daily from a fairly recent book by Bill Devall and George Sessions. Deep Ecology: Living As if Nature Mattered (an updated 2001 edition is now available) was the book, and I was never the same after reading it. It shifted my perspective, permanently. I still recommend it.

Sessions went on to edit Deep Ecology in the Twenty-first Century, and that, too, is a book I would recommend to anyone interested in this topic.

We can't survive without or apart from our relationships with and connections to the other living things on this planet, or apart from Earth itself. They provide us with everything we need. This is more true than ever, in the age of expanding awareness of a changing climate, shrinking areas of primary forests, expanding deserts, overexploited fish populations, encroachment of invasive species, chemical contaminants in water and food, or a long laundry list of other serious problems facing us and our descendants. And what about those other life forms? I bow to them, in the way I bow to all fellow humans. As I bow, I say "namaste", meaning: "the holy place within me, pays respect to the holy place within you", whether you are a man or woman, an elk or a salmon, a condor or a chickadee, a butterfly or a grasshopper, a snake or a frog.

Friday, October 12, 2007

in praise of autumn

The audacious color of these oak leaves still stuns me.

That leathery brown-gold of beech leaves in fall is a color-and-texture I look forward to each year.

But then, if you have not seen tamaracks in their golden dress in autumn, you really cannot imagine how absolutely fine they are. To be a day-long bystander (or bear, or Boreal Chickadee) in the north country at this time of that is a visual feast.

I'm endlessly grateful to have eyes in autumn.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

MCAMMP and our colleagues

MCAMMP, the Milwaukee County Avian Migration Monitoring Partnership, is finishing its fourth field season. Our research team of ten partners, interns, and 90+ volunteers just received the Citizen-based Monitoring Program of the Year Award at the CBM Network Conference in Merrimac, WI last Friday. Read more about MCAMMP here, and the Citizen-based Monitoring Network here.
The research team on the MCAMMP project is composed of some special people: Al Sherkow and Deb Hartman, husband-and-wife team from Riveredge NC, Tim Vargo, Research Coordinator and Sara Vondracheck from the Urban Ecology Center, Owen Boyle, Southeast Regional Ecologist from The Endangered Resources Bureau of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Dr. Chris Guglielmo from the University of Western Ontario. Dr. Chris Lepczyk from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Dr. Glen Fredlund of the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, and Mark Feider from Milwaukee Audubon and the Ozaukee-Washington Land Trust. We also have some fabulous interns, who include Jenn Callaghan, Roz James, and Lynn Ratkowski. Lynn received a Citizen-based Monitoring Volunteer of the Year Award at the conference mentioned above.
A colleague of ours, Dr. Noel Cutright, received a Lifetime Achievement Award at this same conference. See more about Noel and some of his work here. Noel has contributed a massive amount of time on avian monitoring and conservation projects in Wisconsin and elsewhere for more than 30 years.
I'm proud to have all of these people as colleagues!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

What you can do, along with news re: climate change and birds

The David Suzuki Foundation has an excellent list of things you can do to help slow the pace of climate change here.

Recent news and information on climate change and effects on birds can be found here.

These are serious enough topics for me to drop my own commentary, and ask you to read the information found at the sources linked above. Nothing more for me to say, today.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

yes, that is a darn good question...

Read Doug Taron's excellent recent post about biodiversity conservation and its rationale here.

Although Doug is not necessarily or exactly leading in this direction, anyone who reads through my set of blog links and thinks about what I write must know that I am a proponent of the philosophy known as deep ecology. If you're curious about this set of organizing principles, check out these links for a little background:

- a simple definition of deep ecology at Wikipedia here

- where it comes from, here (although take care and realize this is only one person's view)

- an outstanding journal of deep ecology, The Trumpeter

- not exactly the same thing, but a wonderfully wide-ranging journal - Environmental Ethics

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

an extraordinary trip to Alaska

Please read Carl Safina's blog post here about a special trip to Alaska. Since he says it better than I can, I'll let his writing speak for itself.

Laura - you are the coolest!

Laura Erickson is the coolest! If you have not seen her new book, you should take a close look, and soon. It's called "101 Ways to Help Birds". See more about it here, and find out how to get a copy here.

See Laura's blog here , and her website here. No one works harder for the welfare of birds.

Recent discussions we've had show we're both working too hard.

two word-strings for the end of September

Hummingbird - September's End

How did she know
There were jewelweed flowers
In the dry creekbed?
Flying over
This forest patch canopy
She could not have seen
them, down below, on her way
to the Gulf and beyond.


My Desire

I want it to rain tomorrow
With a wind
Blowing the branches
And their burden
Of leaves.
I want to hear and see it,
And know the world will
Continue, yet,
For a while.

the "could have seen, but..." list, and related issues

Recently, Mike McDowell posted a sort of "alternate view" and different response to the recent "Mango mania" in Beloit. See it here, and see responses and other commentary on Laura Erickson's blog here.

Mike has sort of "invited me into" this discussion. He and I have been discussing this for quite a while. There seems to be a rather deep misunderstanding about what Mike has suggested; I say this based on reading comments here and there, including on Laura Erickson's blog, the Wisconsin birdnet, and elswhere. If it's true that some folks feel they are being asked to spend "all of their money" on conservation, I have a few reminders to offer, plus a few facts to set straight. This is not meant as an attack on anyone or on the actions of anyone - just as a set of points for discussion.

1) I can't really speak for Mike, but I'm fairly certain he's not suggesting that anyone should "spend all their money" on conservation. Let's get real.
2) Unless all of us (not just the few who are doing it now) start seriously changing our behavior, we will have a lot fewer birds to watch in 20-40 years - I guarantee it.
3) Along with habitat loss and alteration, the effects of climate change pose a greater threat to birds in the coming century than any previous threat in the history of the planet.
4) If we make the comparison as follows (please bear with me), you'll see where I'm headed:

Let's say you saw someone being beaten up in an alley. You could certainly walk away, with no harm to yourself. Is that a moral response, though? Do we share responsibility for each other's welfare? I would not suggest that you pick up a baseball bat and attempt to beat off the attackers - that would be foolhardy. But to me, a correct response would be to do something to help (call the police, for example). Our actions as consumers and users of natural resources are really like the actions of the bullies, only we are almost totally unaware of the effects of our actions in this case - we don't even know we are doing the bullying. Nearly everything we do has a moral component, but because we are often so far removed from the effects, we are ignorant of many of those moral aspects. Our profligate and wasteful use of fossil fuels are causing extreme climatic effects in the arctic, in the tropics, on low-lying oceanic islands, and elsewhere. Not only birds, other wildlife, and plants are being harmed, but humans, especially people living at the economic margins of many societies, are at great risk. The arctic birds we are thrilled to see in winter are at great risk. And we share responsibility for their welfare, their future - like that person being beaten in the alley. If we do nothing, our responsibility grows in proportion to the severity of the threat.

You can debate this if you like. But I'm pretty sure that if you look inside your heart, you'll see the truth in what I'm asserting here. I welcome your comments, and any ensuing discussion. As I mentioned in an e-mail to Laura about this a few days ago, it's important to support and defend a diversity of views. But I stand steadfastly with Mike on this one - I am hoping his view, and what it represents, grows in acceptance by many more people. I aim to help make that happen, in any way I can.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I can't wait

It doesn't last nearly long enough, but my absolute favorite time of year is now unfolding. Yesterday was the autumnal equinox, and autumn is "it" for me. I love the autumn bird migration, and the autumn leaves of deciduous trees. I can't say how many hours I've spent looking, just looking at fall leaves.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

staying home

Gary Snyder, the great beat poet, writer/teacher and deep ecologist once mentioned that it would be a good thing for us to do the following for the natural world: stay home. Of course Gary travels widely! Of course it's not that simple. I don't really think the issue is so much one of details as it is of a general emphasis. Up until now, we seldom considered these things at all. I would just like to see people really thinking deeply about what they do. That would be a great start. I will still travel, but I hope what changes for me is a serious consideration of the options when I do travel, asking myself if there is a good reason to do so, and if there are alternatives. If there is a good reason to go somewhere, and the alternatives don't exist or are out of reach (like me buying a new hybrid: right now I just can't do it) then I may still go ahead. But sometimes I'll discern that there is no good reason to go, or that there IS an alternative. Right now, I'm studying "passenger-miles-per-gallon" (better with more people in any vehicle, not so good in an aircraft, best in modern railway types like Colorado Rail Car's recent designs) to determine the best way to take people on natural-history trips. So far, the most-efficient and still fairly practical option seems to be a 15-passenger van or small bus. After this year, I won't lead any "car caravan" type trips - I feel it is just too wasteful. And all along the way, I am realizing that I can't "tell other people what to do". We all can have a dialogue, we can discuss, we can debate...and in the end, only so many even pay attention. And then we ourselves just do the best we can. And then, I hope we'll go back again to that earlier consideration: deep thinking about what we're doing. That will be light years' ahead of what we've been doing so far.

For more on this topic and its intersection with birding and natural history, read Mike McDowell's recent excellent discussion here and Laura Erickson's post here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Notes and links on environmental ethics

For some time, I’ve been collecting some wide-ranging information and weblinks on the subject of environmental ethics. Perhaps some of this information might be useful to students in conservation, ecology, peace and justice work, debates about viewpoints on creationism vs. evolution, etc. I especially recommend anyone interested in arguments on these subjects to take a look at some of the following sources.

I also recommend that anyone interested in these topics take a look at the background of just a few “practitioners” from several disciplines – E.O. Wilson, Holmes Rolston III, J. Baird Callicott, and Michael Rosenzweig. Brief biographies of several of these people are found below, with links describing their scholarly activities.

Some useful links:
Environmental ethics
“ “
“ “
“ “
“ “
“ “
“ “


Ecospheric ethics:

Ecospheric ethics – authors:

Interpreting Evolution – Scientific and Religious Perspectives:

The Forum on Religion and Ecology:

Win-win Ecology:

Aldo Leopold, and environmental ethics, at:

Biography of Aldo Leopold:

Writings by, and about A. Leopold and environmental ethics:

E. O. Wilson

Holmes Rolston III (A more complete bio for Rolston is at )

J. Baird Callicott (Vita at )

Michael L. Rosenzweig (

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

urban birds, and nature "in the city"

Learn about contemporary urban bird studies being conducted by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology at their Urban Bird Studies site.

If you live in an urban area, and are looking for ways to enhance the "wildlife-friendliness" of your home and yard, a great online place to go is the Audubon at Home site.

Here in Milwaukee, the outstanding work done at the Urban Ecology Center on education and connecting people with nature in an urban area is absolutely exceptional. See their site, and a lot of information about their programs here .

Thursday, August 30, 2007

conservation of plant species

About 8,000 plant species worldwide are at risk of extinction (not including the Schlumbergera sp., shown here; I just like this flower!) Conservation efforts aimed at plant species are as vitally important as those focused on animal species. Read more here .

Learn more at The Center for Plant Conservation
" " " The Plant Conservation Alliance
" " " The Convention on Biological Diversity
" " " The Native Plant Conservation Campaign

Monday, August 27, 2007

a biography of Aldo Leopold;looking at him with new eyes

Read an excellent review of a new biography of Aldo Leopold in The American Scientist, written by Paul S. Sutter, here . The new book, Aldo Leopold's Odyssey: Rediscovering the Author of A Sand County Almanac, is by Julianne Lutz Newton, and published last year by Island Press. Prof. Lutz Newton focuses on Leopold the scientist, making this book different from all other previous Leopold biographies.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Consumption, and its ecological impact

Along similar lines as those followed by Bill MCkibben in his recent book (reviewed here on Aug.
7th; see here ), the N.R. Goodwin et al. online paper "Consumption and well-being" in the online Encyclopedia of Earth details the changing views of economists on "utility theory" and other theories of economics. More to the point of my purposes here is the section on "The Ecological Impact of Consumption". To find this, scroll about three-fourth's of way down the page here .

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

online ecology & sustainability journal; other online news

See the most recent online issue of Ecology and Society: A journal of integrative science for resilience and sustainability, at:

The table of contents for this issue is found here:

All papers are available as html documents or pdfs, or you can choose to access only an abstract.


News from the WorldWatch Institute is here:

A fascinating section on disasters and peacemaking is at:

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The "Bird Year" - raising awareness of climate change, by birding!

15-year-old Malkolm Boothroyd and his parents have been cycling "on a year-long, fossil-fuel-free journey (by bikes, boots and boats) in search of birds". This is a truly wonderful adventure, demonstrating that birding can really be a great way to help people learn about climate change.

See more about the effort, the "Bird Day" challenge, and the birds these folks have seen thus far, at:

Their "news" page is at:

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

birders' response to climate change: a challenge for 2008


You may have noticed information about my challenge to birders to do a WSO Earth-friendly Birdathon earlier this year. Well, it was pretty much a non-starter - only 2 people participated in the entire state, plus a few folks made donations for Cerulean Warbler conservation. Although I'm grateful to those who participated or donated, it wasn't exactly what I'd call a robust response! Perhaps what I asked for was too complicated. I'm not sure.

Let's move on. I'm asking for your help in re-doing this in 2008, in a different way. I'm asking for your input regarding a more broad, year-long response to climate change and its effects on birds. This is what I'm proposing: that we all co-sign a challenge to ourselves and others to "do birding differently" in 2008. I'm not asking people to "give up" birding - but I do think we need to reconsider doing things the way we have always done them. Here are some ideas - I am asking each of you for comments (shoot straight - you won't hurt my feelings), additional ideas, and then, toward the end of the year, your name, along with the signatures/names of any others of us who agree to this challenge, at the bottom of a letter, e-mail to various lists, and a notice in the Badger Birder and elsewhere. Yes, there ARE sacrifices involved.

Here is a skeleton to build on:
1) Think about your birding destinations, goals, and plans for the year; how could you accomplish them using less fuel?
2) Make a commitment to car-pool as much as possible on birding trips
3) Participate in bird-monitoring projects such as bird censuses (BBS, CBC) in lieu of some other trips.
4) Car-pooling to meetings (not all having to do with birds!)
5) Fun (really, this does not have to be distasteful! ) challenges such a big year in the smallest possible area, using the least possible fuel, and/or big days doing likewise
6) Other ideas - you name it!

Please think this over. If you don't agree, and don't wish to participate, I will surely understand. But I can promise you one thing: I'll keep working toward
finding ways to move this ( or something like it ) forward. I'm eager to hear or read your thoughts and responses. Feel free to share this challenge with others. I am sending it to a lot of people, but will miss some along the way. Thanks for any help you can provide.


William P. Mueller
Issues Committee Chair, Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative (WBCI)
Conservation Chair, Wisconsin Society for Ornithology (WSO)
(414) 643-7279
On the web:

risks to wildlife: understanding "stressors"

Read an important paper on risks facing wildlife - understanding "stressors" - at:

The paper is:

Hames, R. S., J. D. Lowe, S. Barker Swarthout and K. V. Rosenberg 2006. Understanding the risk to neotropical migrant bird species of multiple human-caused stressors: elucidating processes behind the patterns. Ecology and Society 11(1): 24. [online]

Bad news: Lieberman-Warner climate change bill is a loser

The Lieberman-Warner climate change bill unveiled a few weeks ago is not enough.

Greenhouse gas reductions need to happen soon, and reductions need to be more than 80%.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Costs of Climate Change

If climate change predictions are correct, what will it cost us, not even including effects on species, and ecosystems? Here are some sources that attempt to answer this question, albeit only in estimates:

How much might climate change add to future costs for public infrastructure?

Climate Change – the Cost of Inaction (a Friends of the Earth UK Report):

Top economist counts future cost of climate change:

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Bill McKibben and "Deep Economy"

If you choose just one book for late summer/early fall, or indeed just one book to fit in yet this year, let me suggest one. Bill McKibben's latest book is entitled "Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future" (2007, Times Books, Henry Holt & Co., New York). McKibben's nine previous books have ranged widely but have at least revolved around environmental themes. He is perhaps most widely-known for the 1989 book "The End of Nature". McKibben's been writing about climate change for nearly 20 years; in other words, since long before many people ever took it seriously, and at least before many people even knew what it was.

This book, however, goes to the heart of what should be done to create a more sane, ecologically sustainable and livable economy, and thus a more sane, ecologically-sustainable and livable world. Surprisingly, it is not as much focused on technological changes as one might expect. Instead, Mckibben focuses on the myth of growth, on community, as well as energy production, and food.

Indeed, McKibben predicts that the necessary economic changes may and will come from the bottom up, not from the top down. In fact, the most hopeful and optimistic parts of his tale are about places all over the planet where small-scale changes are already occurring, and are having amazing success. Read for example about the rising trend in farmers markets, small-scale electric power generation projects, local farming cooperatives, and similar initiatives. Read about Gorasin, a Bangladeshi village where villagers raise 21 food crops, chickens for meat and eggs, as well as fish on one acre. Fewer nutrient deficiencies, and an almost total rejection of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides (they've already had their bad experiences with the use of both). Or read about a Guatemalan cooperative that makes human-powered farm machinery out of old bicycles, including a grain mill, a machine for manufacturing roofing tiles, and bicycle-driven irrigation pump.

McKibben explans how the search for More has become what has been driving us, at the same time as we are discovering that More seldom equals Better - in fact, it is often the other way around.

Like his other books, Deep Economy is fascinating and well-written. McKibben is a consummate journalist and essayist. I'll be surprised if you come away from this book without a more hopeful view of the future - but while he's leading you to see that possible future, he does not pull any punches, and he shows that there is no easy way ahead. He's done the research that makes this book totally convincing.

See more about this book at

Saturday, July 28, 2007

the "ledge" and its inhabitants

A trip today to Oakfield Ledge State Natural Area in Fond du Lac County led to a walk through the rich woodland at the top of "the ledge" - the long outcropping of dolomite that is called the Niagara Escarpment, and which stretches from southeastern Wisconsin, up along the Door peninsula, and ultimately all the way to Niagara Falls. The cliff of dolomite that forms "the ledge" in Dodge, Fond du Lac, Calumet, Brown, and Door counties harbors a wonderful plant community in some places, especially as in this state natural area. The last photo above shows the purple-stemmed cliff-brake Pellaea atropurpurea - a small cliff-dwelling fern that is a species of special concern, growing amid moss and just below an overhanging red-cedar.

The birdlife in the surrounding woodland includes Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Am. Robin, Northern Flicker, House Wren, Black-capped Chickadee, Baltimore Oriole, and Blue Jay - all common species, but in a decidedly "uncommon" place. For more about this state natural area, see:

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Protect the Alaskan population of the Yellow-billed Loon

Please help protect the AK population of the Yellow-billed Loon. Go to and fill out the online form to assist in the process of obtaining protection for this species through the ESA. Researchers believe only ~ 3700 exist in the Western Arctic Reserve and northern Alaska. Sending the online form takes less than 2 minutes.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

International bird conservation news; Wisconsin DNR news, WI State Natural Areas, etc.


See updates on international bird conservation news at the site of BirdLife International:

At the closer-to-home level, see Wisconsin DNR weekly news at:


Inspiring places:

Some of the best news in Wisconsin concerns the addition of many more new State Natural Areas (SNAs) within the past year. See more about this, plus links to information about all of the SNAs, maps and more, at:

I was in and on the edge of one of my favorite SNAs this weekend, Newport Conifer-Hardwoods SNA, which is within the boundaries of Newport State Park. See more about this lush place at:

Friday, July 20, 2007

Earth Charter news --- and publication available online

Toward a Sustainable World: The Earth Charter in Action was published in 2005 by the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) in the Netherlands. In addition to this book being sold around the world, it is also available as a download, chapter by chapter, at the Earth Charter website. Go to and scrol down to links to the individual chapters.

About the Earth Charter

"The Earth Charter is a widely recognized, global consensus statement on ethics and values for a sustainable future. It has been formally endorsed by over 2,400 organizations, including global institutions such as UNESCO and the World Conservation Union (IUCN). A short history:

The World Commission on Environment and Development (aka "the Brundtland Commission") called for "a universal declaration" and "new charter" to set "new norms" to guide the transition to sustainable development. (Our Common Future, 1987)

A draft UN Earth Charter was developed for the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, but the time for such a declaration was not right. The Rio Declaration became the statement of the achievable consensus at that time.

In 1994, Maurice Strong (Secretary-General of the Rio Summit) and Mikhail Gorbachev, working through their organizations (Earth Council and Green Cross International respectively), restarted the Earth Charter as a civil society initiative. The initial drafting and consultation process drew on hundreds of international documents.

Messrs. Strong and Gorbachev convened an independent Earth Charter Commission in 1997 to oversee the final development of the text and to come to agreement on a global consensus document.

After numerous drafts and after considering the input of over 5,000 people, the Earth Charter Commission came to consensus on the Earth Charter in March, 2000, at a meeting held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. The Earth Charter was later formally launched in ceremonies at The Peace Palace in The Hague.

Over the next five years, a formal endorsement campaign attracted over 2,000 organizational endorsements, representing millions of people, including numerous national and international associations, and ultimately global institutions such as UNESCO and IUCN. Many thousands of individuals also endorsed the Earth Charter.

Efforts to have the Earth Charter formally recognized at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, 2002, came very close to success, resulting in numerous public statements of support from world leaders and heads of state.
The Earth Charter is now increasingly recognized as a global consensus statement on the meaning of sustainability, the challenge and vision of sustainable development, and the principles by which sustainable development is to be achieved. It is used as a basis for peace negotiations, as a reference document in the development of global standards and codes of ethics, as resource for governance and legislative processes, as a community development tool, as an educational framework for sustainable development, and in many other contexts. The Charter was also an important influence on the Plan of Implementation for the UNESCO Decade for Education on Sustainable Development." (see this at the original site, at ).

Barbara Kingsolver and the "Ethics of Eating"

From Speaking of Faith (see original link at )

"Barbara Kingsolver describes an adventure her family undertook to spend one year eating primarily what they could grow or raise themselves. As a citizen and mother more than an expert, she turned her life towards questions many of us are asking. Food, she says, is a 'rare moral arena' in which the ethical choice is often the pleasurable choice."

See more at the link above, including an audio interview with Kingsolver. Then see the website devoted to the book and year-long "experiment" in eating only home-grown or locally grown food, at:

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Massachusetts Rep Markey asks FTC for rules on carbon offset market

From the Earth Portal (see original link at )

Markey asks FTC to develop carbon offset standards

July 19th, 2007
By Michael Burnham
E&E News: Buying and selling voluntary carbon offsets is a $100-million-a-year industry today, with few signs of slowing down. It’s also largely unregulated, with plenty of room for error.
But Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) wants to change that and yesterday asked the Federal Trade Commission to come up with guidelines meant to “ensure voluntary carbon offsets are productive commodities, both for consumers and for the climate,” he said in a statement.
Markey’s letter asks FTC to look at how recycled products, for instance, are marketed to consumers and establish similar guidelines for marketing verifiable carbon offset products.
His announcement came after a House hearing in which lawmakers and industry experts said greater transparency and standardization tools are needed to police such offsets.
The industry has begun earnest efforts to police itself, but stakeholders who testified yesterday before the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming disagreed over how much government intervention may be needed to ensure that the public doesn’t lose confidence in offsets as a potential tool in a mandatory carbon cap-and-trade system.
“We need to bring order to this market, to ensure that consumers don’t get ripped off, that this sort of funding for carbon reductions isn’t wasted,” said Select Committee Chairman Markey, who supports legislation that would impose the most aggressive curbs on U.S. emissions. “The question is what kind of sheriff do we need.”
Unlike the European Union, the United States has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol and is not subject to a mandatory cap on greenhouse gas emissions. E.U. electric utilities and other carbon-intensive industries must cut their emissions or buy offsets on a regulated market to stay below the cap, but U.S. firms may buy offsets voluntarily on a climate exchange or directly from an offset company or project developer.
Offset companies typically buy credits from developers who use the money to plant trees, improve a building’s efficiency or build low- or no-carbon renewable energy projects. The intermediaries then sell the credits to those who want to mitigate some or all of their emissions.
The World Bank projects that the voluntary market could swell to 400 million metric tons a year by 2010. Yet several recent news and nongovernmental organization reports have called into question the voluntary market’s credibility. Some companies are selling offsets based on projects that would have happened already, while other firms are selling the same offset several times over (Greenwire, Sept. 21, 2006).
The global voluntary offsets marketplace is developing in a “regulatory vacuum” today, World Resources Institute senior associate Derik Broekhoff told committee lawmakers.
“Carbon offsets are completely intangible products, and their value depends entirely on how they are defined, represented and guaranteed,” he added. “What the market lacks are common standards for defining and guaranteeing carbon offsets in order to assure consumers that they are getting what they pay for.”
The Switzerland-based International Emissions Trading Association is one of several nonprofit groups that are developing standardized auditing tools to prove that offset vendors’ supplies equal their sales and retired offsets are the same as those advertised.
The San Franciso-based Center for Resource Solutions, for example, is developing a “Green-e” label for offset providers that would show they have opened their books to an independent supply and sales audit. The label would also enable a buyer to see where its offset comes from (Greenwire, May 17).
Also in California, a new carbon offset program run by PG&E — called “Climate Smart” — will rely exclusively on the quasi-private California Climate Action Registry to verify offset projects the utility and its stakeholders might pursue to reduce the carbon dioxide output of its customers (Greenwire, July 5). The registry has in essence established its own standards (or protocols) to loosely govern the voluntary market.
Joseph Romm, a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress, applauded such auditing tools. However, he suggested that federal regulators should take the lead role in developing standards for voluntary offsets as a bridge to an eventual mandatory cap-and-trade scheme in the United States.
Executives whose companies sell offsets, meanwhile, debate how great of a regulatory role the government should play.
Russ George, president and CEO of the Foster City, Calif.-based offsets provider Planktos Inc., welcomed government intervention in the voluntary market as a way to bolster its credibility with consumers.
By effectively communicating how and where its emissions-reduction credits are derived, offset providers can improve the market’s credibility without government intervention, said Thomas Boucher, president and CEO of Charlotte, Vt.-based NativeEnergy LLC.
“The voluntary offset market at this point does not need government regulation,” added Boucher, who said his company sells offsets that meet the “additionality” rule, in accordance with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
While NativeEnergy is one of more than 50 companies that sell voluntary offsets today, the Center for American Progress’ Romm suggested that the number of such companies operating in the United States may decrease if carbon caps become a reality.
“Once a mandatory cap-and-trade system is in place, I believe that voluntary offsets marketplace will largely disappear,” Romm added. “People may still wish to purchase offsets to become carbon-neutral, but then they will almost certainly just purchase credits and allowances on the regulated traded market.”
George disagreed. He pointed to a thriving voluntary offsets market alongside the regulated E.U. cap-and-trade scheme.
“We’re not going to solve [climate change] if there are competing factions,” George added. “We need to look at all of the possible solutions as fast as we can.”