Wildlife of the Pothole Ponds


This is my morning routine: sit at the front window, check my emails on the laptop, watch the chickadees and juncos and jays and robins flitting from the butterfly bush to the birdfeeders. And watch the numerous birds of my neighborhood cavort in the ponds in the middle of my street. Pothole ponds.

Potholes. Those gaping holes that bottom out your car, swallow unsuspecting bicyclists and delight young children. I love the potholes in our street. It’s hardly a street really – an expanse of gravel only two houses long, in a quiet neighborhood a block from the Willamette River in Oregon. A city park is across the street, fir trees rising to the sky. Every few years a windstorm brings down two or three of these giants, making the house shake with the impact of their falling.

The potholes are lakes right now – almost joined into one in several places. When the weather warms, they will empty, to be replaced with dust that will swirl up in clouds in late summer heat and wind. But for now, they are playgrounds to the smaller birds, and soon will be a place for the ducks to come float. I garden next to these street lakes, careful to move out of the way if an occasional car tries to zip through to quickly, spraying water in all directions.

I’ve lived here for eleven years now. I remember someone walking by on a summers day and saying to me, “Wouldn’t it be nice if they paved this street?” to which I uttered a shocked and vehement “NO!” – bringing a look of offended surprise to this person who would like our neighborhood to be more neat and orderly. It’s a messy neighborhood in a way, but not in the sense of garbage and discarded cars. Many front yards are gardens, or have a greenhouse plopped right in front. Around the corner is a house with numerous plant starts in pots out front and a sign that reads “Food Not Lawns”. People in this neighborhood know each other by name, share food and seeds and gardening ideas. I have an old apple tree out front, some variety that no one can identify. It makes apples that look beautiful – huge, red and shiny. But bite into one and….arghhh! The inside of these apples is pink and mushy and mealy. I’ve seen people sneak up to take an apple, only to bite it and discard it with a sour look on their face and in their mouth. By fall the front yard is covered with discarded apples with one bite taken out of them. Another year, a young couple came and asked if they could take the apples for their apple press to make cider. I said sure…I certainly wasn’t using them! I’ve gone to other houses in the neighborhood as well, offering to exchange homemade jam for being able to pick their plums.

Around the corner my landlord lives on another gravel street, this one longer, with potholes as well. At one point he moved a house onto one of the double lots. In doing the work to prepare for its installation, he also graded the street up and down in front, eradicating the potholes. He came out the next day to find the kids from one of the houses digging holes in the street that he had just graded. “But we LIKED the potholes!” was their explanation.

What’s not to like? You certainly have to go slow through them if driving, making the street much safer for cats and children. Occasionally you …

Global Warming All Around Us: Current Signs of Climate Change


Amidst all the talk of climate change in our society, there’s no need to blindly accept the claims and statistics made by the media. Strong evidence is visible in our daily lives – and has been for a number of years – that clearly points to global warming as its cause.

When most people hear “global warming,” hotter temperatures come to mind, and for good reason; heat waves have pervaded our daily lives and will continue to do so as the planet continues to warm. An extreme heat wave hit Europe for two weeks in 2003 and claimed 35,000 lives as a result of daily temperatures breaking 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and it is estimated that in only several decades, summers such as this will become the norm. Heat waves are felt most severely in highly developed urban areas where concrete and asphalt absorb heat especially quickly.

As temperatures rise all over the globe, precious ice has begun to melt at a rapid rate. More than a million miles of sea ice has disappeared from the arctic, and the polar ice cap – according to NASA – is melting as much as 9 percent each decade. When this ice melts, it flows into the world’s waterways and contributes to rising sea levels. The past century has seen a sea level rise of 4 to 8 inches worldwide.

Hurricanes have increased in number and severity in the past century as well, partly because of warmer ocean temperatures. Rising sea levels are another contributing factor to these disasters. The National Wildlife Federation predicts that wind speeds of hurricanes will increase by as much as 13 percent, and rainfall will increase by as much as 31 percent in the next hundred years.

Some climate change results even more directly affect humans. Cases of asthma among children, for example, have increased due to fossil fuel combustion. Meanwhile, allergies have been affected by record-breaking pollen counts all over the United States; as the Earth warms, pollen-making plants have longer growing seasons and thus produce more pollen.

“Global Warming is Affecting Weather,” National Wildlife Federation 
“Global Warming Increases Asthma,” SciDevNet 
“Temperatures Rising: Global Warming Turns up the Heat on Human Health,” Natural Resources Defense Council…

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge a Must-See


The city of Savannah, GA is known for it’s haunted city tours, extravagant nightlife, and ubiquitous seafood restaurants, but no visit to this Coastal Georgia city would be complete without a quick drive through the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge.

Located just outside the city on the border with South Carolina, the Savannah NWR is a 29,000 acre wildlife preserve spotlighting the diverse flora and fauna of the Coastal Empire.

Entering the Refuge from the East, visitors can embark on a 4 mile drive through the park on a winding gravel road that showcases the aquatic ecosystem of the region. All manner of aquatic birds are on display, from ducks and cormorants to seagulls and pelicans. As visitors drive down the paths, turtles can be seen popping up and down in the marsh. There are numerous opportunities to get out and walk along miles of trails that skirt the canals and impoundments that divide the park, and get as close to nature as you desire.

And of course, there are the alligators. Floating serenely though the ponds, basking on the shore, or even hunting the many birds on the water, alligators are the main attraction of the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. On a warm and sunny day, it is not uncommon to see up to 50 alligators of various sizes on the 4 mile drive. Visitors are asked not to feed or harass the alligators, but simply enjoy seeing the ancient and majestic reptiles in the unbound habitat that they’ve lived in for millenia.

Best of all, this one of a kind nature experience is completely free! The Savannah NWR is open 7 days a week, year-round from sunrise to sunset. The Visitor’s Center, on the west end of the park, is open from 9-4:30 Monday through Saturday, and it features knowledgeable staff, restrooms, and displays highlighting the many wildlife opportunities the Refuge has to offer.

So when you make plans to visit the Coastal Empire, and you definitely should come enjoy the unique and diverse history of this region, be sure to budget a few hours to explore the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge and observe the glory of nature in it’s purest form. 


CFLs for the Environment: Good or Bad


CFL bulbs or compact fluorescent lamps are said to be a god send for the environment. It helps reduce the amount of energy consumed by an average household. Although LEDs are the better option, they are smaller in size and therefore a large number is needed to emit the same amount of light a CFL will emit.

CFL is good for the environment in the sense of its energy efficiency. But the components used for the manufacturing of CFLs include mercury. It is very poisonous and could be injuries to health. That is why CFL users are advised not throw it out amongst other plastic wastes which end up in landfills. CFLs are to be recycled separately because of its mercury content. Even if it breaks in front of someone it is advised that he/she remove themselves from the place and lock the door and let the gas flow out during the course of an hour.

CFLs are a god send but they need to be handled carefully. As if now it can only be disposed of by recycling. This is a mandatory requirement in US. But not in most other parts of the world. I hope new laws will come into place for its disposal and other governments will follow the US example.…

UK Company, Combat Climate Change, Urges Climate Change Action for Practical Reasons While Debate Continues


A UK business is taking a different, less partisan tack on the climate change / global warming question, and profiting by acknowledging that the situation is, at best, confusing for most consumers in their country. Combat Climate Change Ltd had decided that taking immediate, practical action to counter global warming trends is more important than winning converts to the cause.

According to a survey commissioned by CombatClimateChange.co.uk and published in a news release from the company, more than 45% of UK consumers find the question of global climate change is far from resolved in their minds. Breaking the UK numbers down, the company’s polling indicates that of baby boomers in the 55-64 age range, only 30% were delaying action, while in the 16-24 age range, a full 50% were taking a “wait and see” attitude. Combat Climate Change Ltd. offers a website designed to present multiple perspectives on the issue, allowing consumers to digest the facts and arguments and make up their own minds. Since, as they acknowledge, this process could take considerable time for the 41% of people who are still undecided or confused and delaying action, they offer another, simpler perspective: many of the current actions that individuals can take will indisputably benefit their pocketbooks anyway.

In the US, starry-eyed Hollywood personalities claim that putting in a few compact fluorescent (CF) bulbs will “change the world,” and consumers are understandably skeptical of such simplistic claims, though for many this simplifies the matter to the point where they can take action. For others, the long life and low cost of operation of a CF bulb is a better simple selling point. People have seen how energy savings benefits them personally, even if they can’t yet fathom why lowering their electric bill is to the electric company’s benefit as well.

Combat Climate Change Ltd. in the UK is bridging the gap between the “true believer” in global warming, and the skeptic who is delaying action for the resolution of an issue that may never come, or may come much too late. By addressing the need for information as well as the usefulness of intelligent action right now, the company stands to profit from common sense. The managing director, energy specialist Stewart Grew, is quoted in the release explaining the company’s pragmatic point of view: “The fact is, by saving energy now, every individual can save money – and they just might save the planet at the same time. If all the concerns are real, they will have done their bit for the world. If it all turns out to be so much hot air, then they will have made their own world a better place anyway. Everyone wins.”…

Downwinders At Risk Environmental Group Battles Politics


For ten years one group has been fighting pollution near Dallas/Fort Worth, TX.

Downwinders At Risk, a 501© (4) group with an education fund which is a 501© (3) organization actively works to end cement kiln incineration of hazardous waste at the Midlothian industrial complex.

Even the famous Erin Brockovitch has helped with efforts.

“We document and expose the dangers of cement kiln incineration and other hazardous industrial practices,” said Becky Bornhorst, a board member of Downwinders. “We educate the public and provide concerned citizens the means to help reduce toxic industrial air pollution.”

Bornhorst said the group promotes public policy designed to improve the quality of air for children, the elderly, and all at-risk people.

Anyone can become a member by volunteering, donating, or taking action online at downwindersatrisk.org. They have approximately 2,500 members.

Some of the organization’s latest accomplishments include joining with other Texas groups in filing a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failure to bring Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) into compliance with the Clean Air Act. In May they reached a historic settlement with local, state, and federal governments to put DFW on a faster track for clean air.

Downwinders spent two years in negotiations with Holcim Cement and the EPA over a permit application that would increase production and emissions at their Midlothian plant. Holcim agreed to install and test new pollution control technology, provide $2.25 million dollars for other projects aimed at reducing ozone forming emissions in the DFW area, provide monitoring for particulate matter for three years, up to $120,000 over five years for an independent scientist to review compliance and operations at Holcim, and to reduce the limits of ozone-forming emissions previously requested by the company.

Downwinders and a group of Midlothian citizens successfully opposed TXI’s attempt to discontinue use of pollution control equipment and joined with that city’s residents to feature Brockovich at a town hall meeting.

The organization is taking the lead in local grassroots efforts to write a new State Implementation Plan for ozone pollution, says Bornhorst.

“We don’t have much time,” she said. “In February recommendations from local officials was due. Then the plan goes to Austin. Citizens who want to influence public policy need to act now or lose the chance to impact things.”

The group’s goal is to reduce toxic industrial air pollution in North Texas. They have support from citizens, the PTA, local doctors, and the Sierra Club.

The group was founded by Sue Pope and Jim Schermbeck.

Bornhorst said what makes Downwinders unique is that it has survived as unaffiliated local grassroots groups for over a decade, something rare in the country, even rarer in Texas.

“Downwinders serves as an information clearinghouse for national and international citizens’ groups,” said Bornhorst. “People fighting cement plant pollution in New York, Montana, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Michigan as well as Puerto Rico, Great Britain, Croatia, and Mexico have asked and received our assistance.”

Bornhorst urges other groups such as hers to never give up.…