Archive for August, 2009

Various Links of High Interest

BusinessWeek calls into question the administration’s efficacy in ridding the roads of low-milage vehicles in the Cash for Clunkers program.  Since we poured another 2 billion into it, we’ll have to wait a while to get the full information on how much more fuel efficient the cars purchased were.  I am deeply ambivalent about this program to begin with- still sore from bailing out the auto industry the first two or three times, feel we could use the money elsewhere, pretty sure limits on new car purchases aren’t limited enough- so I look forward to having my suspicions confirmed or allayed.

Interesting and ultimately terrifying article presenting pro arguments for climate engineering.  The two biggest pros:

a) ‘The idea of even testing such a system scares many people, and some scientists argue that climate-engineering research should remain theoretical. But Dr. Caldeira says that small-scale testing — perhaps an experiment intended to slightly cool the Arctic — could be safer than the alternative.

“The worst-case scenario,” he says, “is one in which you have an untested system that you need to deploy quickly at large scale in a desperate attempt to ward off some sort of climate crisis. It could be much better to start testing soon at small scale and to observe what happens as the system is deployed.”’

b) ‘If rich European countries with strong green constituencies cannot live up to their own promises to cut carbon, how much hope is there of permanently enforcing tough restrictions in the United States, much less in poor countries like India and China? If even a few nations demur or cheat, the whole system can break down.

By contrast, climate engineering does not require unanimous agreement or steadfast enforcement throughout the world.’

Ok, a makes sense to me briefly- I do like tested methods- until I start wondering how climate engineering can ever ever ever be done on a ‘small’ scale.  Like there’s a sandbox world hovering in a lab somewhere and folks in labcoats and goggles are watching it closely with clipboards, and one is ready to step in with a fire extinguisher at any time.  We live in this lab.  How are we going to get close to 7 billion people to sign a waiver to be experiment subjects?  Is there even a way to decide that things are desperate enough to muck more up on the one planet we can live on without a consensus?  Which brings me to how terrifying b is.  Unilateral experimental strikes on the climate?  I’m pretty sure that if anyone who is not the USA tried that, we’d consider it an act of terrorism.

Leads me smack up against a new report on climate change and national security: prognosis, uh-oh.

Oh dear, oh dear.  I watched this video of baby penguins waddling around to try and calm down after all this bad news, but just ended up getting really jealous when people got to pet them!  People who are not me!  Sigh.  One day.

How Green Is Your Garden?

IMG_5162

Mine is very, very green.  Because it almost all died and is full of weeds now.  But turns out two weeks of me in another country is just what the morning glory needed.  He shot up three feet and bloomed all over.  Mmfph.  See if I ever water that ingrate again.

The weeds look so nice and healthy- much healthier than anything I tried to grow myself this year- that I’m just going to let them be.  Maybe when the weather isn’t ludicrous (I’d link you to the 10-day forecast, but I want you to have a nice evening) I’ll try again for some salad greens.

Oh-possums!

Behold:

singing opossums

Now that I have hopefully intrigued and possibly worried you, read on to answer your burning questions!

New Zealand has a opossum problem.  It has a problems with lots of invasives, actually, but I have excellent photos of stuffed opossums and a topical link, so let’s start here.

This is my concise understanding of the problem:  Soon after the primordial ooze dried up into the world, New Zealand said ‘Cheers!’ in a hilarious accent to Pangea and floated off alone.  It spent the next whatever billion years developing an eco-system free of most mammals.  Maybe all land mammals, actually, and only occasionally swim-bys from whales.  But definitely no rats, stoats, weasels, opossums, whatever creepy little things you can think of, or bears or other large scary things*.  The animals left got used to not being hunted- the kiwi is flightless, as are a couple other native birds, because who needs to fly when there’s nothing after you or your eggs?

Anywho people got there, and brought bunches of other mammals with them, some by accident, some on purpose to make the place more ‘home-y’.  And since then, it’s been open season on the unsuspecting indigenous animals.

But why are opossums so bad?  They eat eggs, and procreate quickly, and travel.  They’ve helped wipe out bird populations all over New Zealand.  They’re widely hunted- and drivers are encouraged to aim for them when you see one on the road, opossum roadkill being a sort of public service- but their populations keep growing.

Let’s add another wrinkle (NZ is a very wrinkly country): NZ is pretty concerned about it’s environment.  Active government agencies and task forces figuring it out, cleaning it up, keeping it nice for the tourists and hugely influential agriculture industry and sometimes even to fulfill promises to the tangata whenua.  Environmental debates more closely impact more of the population than here in the US, and it was my impression that they tended to be more active and spirited than they are here (Kiwis, care to comment?  I wasn’t there long and the headlines in the NZ Herald could be misleading me).

So, opossums are a problem (I think they also spread cattle diseases so farmers are all upset about them), hunting’s not enough, and the government has decided to deal with it by still dropping poison all over the landscape from airplanes.  What?  This does not sound caring and thoughtful.  At first!

Their risk analysis shows the destruction done by opossums is more than that done by the poison, referred to as ‘1080’, so they’re going to keep using it despite protests from staff who don’t want to be exposed to all the poisons and other people who, well, don’t want poison all over.  Kills more innocent animals and such who get in it, gets into streams.  The stuff they use does degrade, but it’s pretty potent for a few days.  More info on it is here.

Pretty interesting debate.  Check out all the comments at the NZ Herald on the practice– both for and against, from people much more informed and in-tune with the country’s needs than I am.  I am curious about why they use aerial spraying, though- is it simply more efficient than spreading it in a more localized fashion?  Would local drops raise fewer safety issues?  Or, since the animals need to ingest the poison for it to work, does it have to be coating everything to be effective and so spraying just makes sense all sorts of ways?

Ponder away, if you like, or check out a more entertaining way to get rid of opossums- by selling their carcasses to tourists.  I visited Opossum World in Napier, NZ, in order to see what is billed as their “amazing static display”.  They have a diorama of taxidermy opossums eating the eggs of taxidermy birds- with a system to play the songs of the native birds the opossum endangers, and some other stuffed exhibits on the opossum life cycle, how they’ve killed (lots of old poison cans in that display), and a display of a opossum hunter skinning one while another fiddles on his roof.  Also a quintet of singing opossums on a car (see, brought it back for you).  Not all of it is strictly factual.  But it is certainly amazing: check out my pictures here.  (There are other less dead-opossums related things to do in Napier, too.  Just putting that out there.  You should go.)

In the same shop, you can get all sorts of opossum gifts- they’re commodifying the dead animals by making their fur into yarn for some very warm knits, hats, computer dusters…you name it, they make it from opossum for you.  They even made a moa.  And the opossum/merino blends are in stores all over the country, too, so the more you get your friends and family, the more you help rid the island of a pest.  Except the 1080 helps even more than that.  But it’s a start, and my new mittens are prettier than accidental poisonings.

*I double checked and they had two kinds of mammals, both of which are bats, and despite that Calvin and Hobbes sequence about them not being bugs I had no idea they were really mammals.  Didn’t Susie even say that? Ah, youth.

Progress: Mmm-Hmmm, Now Changes

Hey there!  I’ve missed you guys!  I realize that that’s my fault for not posting, but be assured I missed you while I was avoiding you.  So after that vacation to New Zealand, I was useless with jet-lag for a few days, then the sniffle I brought back got worse for a few days (no, not swine flu, got it checked out, but I did get prescribed this amazing cough syrup for whatever it was), and then I got inspired for a few days, and now it’s now.  More on that later.  First my July goal.

In July, that sunny month of my birth, I had pledged to travel sustainably.  And I think I did a very good job.  Bought local, stayed local, ate local, considered the sources of things, etc.  Usual behaviour, only over there, not here.  And with souvenirs.  I will be posting on some the places I stayed- all of which have excellent green practices and were run by locals.  I’ll be posting on some of the environmental issues I noticed there- fishing (obliquely related, with a book review) and pest control (I think you’ll like that one!  It comes with taxidermy photos!).  And the food I can summarize here- I ate a) well, b) meat, and c) more vegetarian than I expected.

As you have gathered, my attempts at being vegetarian- even for a little- have been largely halfhearted and begrudging.  The first meat I had after the pre-trip veg was Air New Zealand plane food.  Not terrible, and if you forget how it looked, pretty good,  and served with free wine (refills available), so rock on, ANZ.  But ordering meat again in restaurants was strange.  It felt wrong.  Wrong and freeing, but still wrong.  One nice thing about meat in New Zealand is that it’s probably locally produced- a lot of cows and sheep and plenty of seas about, and your dinner doesn’t have far to travel.  They also have deer farms too- tried the venison a lovely terrine in a pub opposite Parliament.  It was very easy to stick to local restaurants.  But transportation isn’t the biggest sustainability issue with livestock, so that’s a small consolation.

I did my time on the North Island (Auckland, Napier, and Wellington) traveling alone and thus entirely according to my own whims, but in the South Island I was hosted by the dashing D, who has vegetarian proclivities of his own.  His excellent cooking and general good behaviour about picking restaurants with tofu on our road trip inspired me to try harder myself- buddy system.  We still ate meat (oh dear I do love lamb) on several occasions.

Coming home, though, I haven’t had meat since the last ANZ meal- lamb and oh that wine- and I feel good about that. I noticed my digestive system is happier without all the meat, too, especially the red stuff.  In-teresting.  But whether it’s just too hot out to eat anything ‘real’ or I’ve actually unfurled a new petal, I’m getting my kicks from lots of fruit and vegetables (and cornbread) these days.  Even making plans to get a blender and crock pot (craigslist!) to aid me in my attempts to prepare fruits and vegetables in new and exciting ways.  This is an unexpected and pleasing development.

Alright, that’s the goal summary, now the changes:  I’m not making new resolutions for August.  Or probably for a while after August.  I’m going to keep on posting about all the other things I’m trying (there will be compost changes shortly, for instance) but I won’t add things.  I am beginning the process of applying to graduate schools of urban or city planning for next fall, starting last weekend- and with that on top of the real job, studying for an exam that’s real job related, and architecture classes beginning in three weeks, I should not have the time to make any big new changes around here.  If I do, someone please tell me to get back to my homework.  I am very excited about all of this (ok not the job exam, but I am excited about passing that as a revenge for all the boring stuff I have to learn for it), and I’ll keep you updated on how it’s going.  So far I’ve got specialties of interest identified, a list of schools to apply to, a list of deal-breakers, and I’m starting the asking-other-people-who-actually-know-planning about it.  Not bad for three days, think I’ll take a month off.  Ha ha!  Ha.

Busy fall.  I planned it that way.  But I’ll be back, and soon, and you will see some opossum taxidermy the likes of which you have probably not imagined.  At least I hope so.


Email Me @

virescent.blog (at ) gmail.com

Blog Stats

  • 46,783 hits

Unless otherwise indicated, all content and photos posted on this site are generated by me. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.