Posts Tagged 'new zealand'

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.

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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.

Progress: Hurried

Heading out the door soon, but before I go, it’s a new month, so goal summary:  I turned on my AC that once, but otherwise the no-AC thing hasn’t been horrendous, except for not sleeping.  I’m heading to the antipodean winter, too, so AC becomes moot for a couple weeks.  Certainly won’t be on here while I’m gone.  As for everything else, vegetarianism, check, carbon offsets, getting done, yeah.  Let’s describe last month as distracted, but tending in a positive direction.

New monthly goal- sustainable travel!  I clearly spent days coming up with that one.  On my trip, beyond the carbon offsets and the personal offsetting fun, I’m going to examine all my touristy choices.  Choosing local places with green missions, and not big chains, for instance.  Buying souvenirs from real NZ type people, not imported trinkets.  Respecting the local environment by not kicking a moa. Etc.  I’m sure I’ll think of more there, and it’s possible I’ll get a chance to post while away, so I may even share.  But for the next couple weeks, be pleasently surprised by updates, instead of expecting them?

Pre-trip breakfast (the tomatoes came along just in time):

pre trip breakfast

Have a great weekend!

Progress: Growth

In April, I was focusing on gardening, and negotiating with the apartment complex for unlame recycling facilities.  Now May is half over, and they’re both going very well.  My garden is growing, up and out.  Dad gave me tomatoes and a pepper, and Mom gave me a flower and some oregano this weekend, so my deck is pretty cluttered.  I’ll take a picture for you if it ever stops raining.

I’m growing spinach (and/or baby’s breath- I thought I planted both but everything looks the same, and this might be weird because I might have planted spinach with the morning glories), morning glories, peas the vegetable, sweet peas the flower, and I think that’s it.  Compared to last year, it was painless- I dumped some seeds in and forgot about them, it rained for two weeks, and now everything is green.  I’ve either gained garden perspective, or I’m more easily distracted.

Next steps:  Ascertain what I did plant, repot and stake the tomatoes.  Stick trays under the pots, since they’re peeing on the deck underneath me, and it’s just too soon to alienate my neighbors.

I was also bugging the office.  I determined they are violating a law!  I’m not sure I properly expressed how thrilling that day was for me.  Felt like a citizen hero, became David to Goliath, etc.  I did talk to the property manager about that last Friday, actually, and she said the city never enforces those laws so it’s cool for now.  It was a fascinating interview- I learned a lot about her personal life- but the management position is, the law isn’t enforced, and we residents are uncooperative, so they aren’t going to push it.  She wasn’t aware until I pointed it out that they were in violation, though, and she said she’d send out another notice.  Which is required anyway twice a year.  She did mention that, if more people recycle, they’ll save money on trash pick-up, since recycling pick-up is basically free, and the trash is changed by weight.  So, I see a two-fold path on this:  figuring out who enforces this for the city, and why they don’t, and cajoling the management to take some recycling baby steps.  Proper container labeling, for one.  No progress on the bike racks so far.

I’m going to follow up on the apartment agitation, so let’s count that as something for ‘half-May’.

For a legitimate new challenge, though, I’m going to work out my travel offset plans.  I finished my classes this Tuesday, so I can let myself read my guidebooks and do the fun research for New Zealand with a clear conscience now.  I’ve been vegetarian for a couple weeks now, as part of that project.  I did eat some pepperoni, and I had shrimp on Mother’s Day, but otherwise awesome.  Except for when I tried a peanut butter and banana sandwich, which is seriously gross and how did Elvis eat those?  That was a rough morning, gastronomically.  It sounded like such a delicious idea.  I’m pretty sure I’m getting enough protein- eggs, tofu, chickpeas, those are protein right?- and I’ve done a little online searching for recipes, which worked well.  Though they did lead me to the pb and banana combo.  Mixed bag, I guess.

More of that for the rest of the month, then, plus some research on carbon offset programs, and commenter bullmooser made a great point that some sort of activism to reduce emissions in the long term would be another great way to offset my carbon guilt.  Stay tuned.

Plane Tickets: Putting the Guilt to Use

While sick and babbling at you the other day, I mentioned my tickets to New Zealand.  Not just the ravings of a madwoman:  I have plane tickets to New Zealand.

I’ve always wanted to get out and see the world, but I wanted to pay my own way, and go in as untouristy a manner as possible.  So I waited, saved, and assumed a better time would come along.  It didn’t, but now I have a passport and a twenty-fifth birthday approaching, and it’s now or never.  Well, probably not ‘never’, but definitely later.  I emailed an old friend in NZ for some advice a couple weeks ago, and, having been promised hiking and penguins, bought the tickets Sunday.

Let me digress for a moment to direct you to the new link, Cr!key Creek.  It’s my kiwi friend’s blog on water issues- focus on NZ, but he gets around.  Along with all the other parts of this trip I am completely excited about, hanging out with a  dude who’s done so much work on sustainability ranks pretty high.

But see, now I have a dilemma.  I’m flying halfway across the world twice.  This is a big ol’ suckerpunch to my environmental changes.  According to Terrapass, by flying roundtrip from Washington to Auckland, I’m responsible for 7,120 lbs of carbon emissions.  That’s like driving my car (Civic Hybrid) around for a year (also according to Terrapass).  Actually, hey, I thought it was going to be more like driving a Hummer to the moon.  Not feeling quite so guilty now.

Well, either way, that’s a pretty big negative impact on the environment, which I need to do something about (blog being all about channeling the guilt to environmental use, yup yup).  But what!?

Rhetorical, I’ve already decided what I’m going to do.  But first let’s talk about the “not going” option.

The simplest way to not rack up this carbon guilt is to not go to New Zealand.  Stay home, find some pictures of it online, and email the kiwi when I want to chat.  Going to New Zealand to bum around and walk on mountains is purely a privileged, selfish act.  Money would be better spent donating to local food shelters while I spend the two weeks volunteering to muck out the Anacostia.  This is all true.  But I don’t feel guilty about that at all:  I’m stoked about every part of this trip.

Mine is not an abstemious sustainability.  Perhaps you guessed from the frequent Salvation Army trips.  I want to do as much and live as well (according to my idea of well) as I can with as little as I can manage it on.   I get that lots of environmentalists aren’t comfortable with that balance, and why, but I am. So let’s recap the guilt nuances:  trip to NZ, sweet, impact of ghg emissions, lame sauce.

Here’s how I’m going to use this:  first, I’m going to offset my carbon.  Yup, can’t buy a green conscience, but if I can afford the tickets, I can afford to support serious emissions-reduction programs.  I will look for programs that actively remove emissions and donate enough to cover my flight.  I’ll report back, of course.

Second, my time in NZ will be spent environmentally.  Start with supporting the local economy- no chain hotels or restaurants, no ‘Made in China’ junk for the folks back home.  I’m researching B&B’s to stop in along the way.  I’ll tread lightly on the mountains- pack in, pack out, pat the trees soothingly, etc.  I’ll use public transport as much as possible (apparently they have a great national bus system, so no need to rent a car).

And third, I’m using the promise of this trip as a carrot for my efforts.  Literally.  I’m going vegetarian, starting as soon as I’m done with the Sha Cha chicken delivery leftovers, until I get on the plane.  Doesn’t seem so daunting now- though I will draw a line at pizza (I’ll try for all-veg but if it’s plain cheese or pepperoni only, like I’m locked in a room for 12 hours with nothing but a cheese pizza and a pepperoni pizza, I’m eating the pepperoni, but it’s not going to come to that), and food other people make for me in good faith.  If I go home and Dad cooks me shrimp, I’m having some shrimp.  (Dad cook me veggies.  Mom will help.)  But I promise 98.9% vegetarian intake, at least.  It’ll be easier with a reward at the end.

So that’s how I’m going to deal with that.  For the interactive part of this feature:  whatcha think?

Quick Updates

I’m home sick today, so with the woozy and the drugs, I’ve only got a little focus left.

Gardening:  I might have planted mint with my oregano, or I might not have.  The things coming up don’t quite look like what’s there.  My basil is definitely basil though and it’s pretty happy.  It’s rained so steadily this month that I’d thought everything I planted a couple weeks ago drowned, but something’s coming up out on the balcony.  It’ll take a few days to figure out what it is.   The hydrangeas from last year survived!  I need to plant more things.

Recycling:  No word from the management on my letter yet.  I’m visiting tomorrow to bring it up.

Biking:  Rain.

There’s probably more but unnnnnnnnggggghh.

Oh yeah this is pretty awesome, perhaps you read about how the EPA does its job now.   Also I signed up for paperless bills and 100% renewable energy from Dominion, it’s official.  Oh, and I bought plane tickets to New Zealand for this summer.  See I bet there’s a lot of stuff like that, but right now I need to go be pitiful closer to the OJ.

Hey yeah it’s Earth Day tomorrow.  If I shake this cold, I’ll be watching The Day After Tomorrow in celebration.  Actually probably will if I still am sick, too.  Woot.  Have a good one.

Waitakere: Eco City Preview

At the Alexandria Summit, Mayor Bob Harvey of Waitakere, New Zealand gave a presentation about his own city’s efforts to become an eco-city. He showed us a very pretty video of the eponymous mountains and some beaches, civic events and so forth, but I couldn’t find it to link for you. Instead, I found a video of their “Trash to Fashion” show. It began as school kids in Waitakere making costumes from waste, and has grown into… well, you’ll see. For your viewing pleasure: the trippy part of eco-cities. (Will this happen when Alexandria does her thing? I hope so.)


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