EarthWorks gives the E.A.R.T.H. Award to 5 individuals or organizations who show excellence in Environmental Action and Restoration That Helps. This year's recipients were all quite amazing: Max Quinn, an 11 year old who started the nation-wide KidsEcoClub; Denise Stillinger, the president of the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy (who just happens to be my "handler" at Mira Costa College); SDSU's College of Extended Studies for their green certificate programs; the Home Builders Institute for providing enviro-mentoring to underserved youth in San Diego County; And, finally, the California Wolf Center.
A recent study published in the 'Biotropica' journal has revealed that megaherbivores, such as elephants and rhinoceroses, are essential in maintaining the biodiversity of the tropical rainforests of South-East Asia, suggesting they be protected and even reintroduced into areas where have disappeared due to illegal human activity. The megaherbivores’ ability to disperse seeds from the flora they consume far exceeds the abilities of smaller seed-dispersing herbivores, making them an important factor contributing to the structural integrity of the rainforest and the variety found within that type of environment. The tight quarters due to the density of plant species within the rainforest make it difficult for the plants to disperse their seeds themselves so they rely on animals to aide in their dispersal. But plants, such as the mango tree, whose seeds are very large cannot rely on smaller animals to distribute their seeds. Elephants and rhinos are special in that they ingest the whole fruit, seeds and all, and digest them slowly and inefficiently. So, when they poop (it always comes back to poop!), most of the seeds come out and they come out virtually unharmed. This allows them to disperse the seeds across the forests, helping to solve the forest’s own density issue.
The underlying message of the study is to stop illegal hunting. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says that the elephants of South-East Asia are in “danger of extinction” and the two rhinoceros species are “critically endangered”. Elephant and rhino populations world-wide, not just in Asia, are drastically decreasing. The Western Black Rhino of Africa was officially declared extinct on November 10, 2011 with the Northern White Rhino of central Africa “possibly extinct” in the wild and the Javan Rhino in Vietnam “probably extinct” (MSNBC). It is heart wrenching that within the last year we have seen three species of Megafauna go extinct. Every animal has a profound effect on the environment in which they live; otherwise, they wouldn’t have adapted to be there. It’s a shame we have to “discover” why they are important to find it necessary to preserve them.
Illustration from Mark Hallett Paleoart/Photo Researchers (NationalGeographic.com)
Somewhere out there a scientist is measuring lizard emissions and, while it may seem like a complete waste of resources to some people, the findings make for an interesting comparison for current and past environmental conditions and the politics and culture that surround it.
National Geographic recently released an article entitled "Dinosaurs' Gaseous Emissions Warmed Earth?" (Published May 7 by Charles Choi on NationalGeographic.com) in which it describes and critiques the findings of a study done by Dr. Dave Wilkinson of Liverpool John Moores University. The jist of the article is if modern day lizards and mammals give off 50-100 million metric tons of methane gas annually then 20-ton dinosaurs probably gave off somewhere close to the total amount of current natural as well as man-made daily emissions, which is around 520 million metric tons annually. And, while the comments left by readers of the article indicate a bit of debate and skepticism, I believe the results are simply a reflection on how much we know and don't know about the earth and its geological and environmental history.
Really, this is just more proof that warming and cooling are all a part of the natural cycle of things. "...fossil findings make it clear that sauropods lived in a much warmer world than we do. People sometimes describe it as a super-greenhouse." Haha, yeah, a super-greenhouse of dino farts!
A friend of mine shared this on Facebook from the Impossible to Possible page (www.facebook.com/Impossible2Possible) and it was too well said not to share myself. Always remember the important things in life!
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous "yes."
The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.
"Now," said the professor as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things--your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions--and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.
The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.
The sand is everything else--the small stuff. "If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.
"Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first--the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."
One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked.
It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend."
I am a biologist and my life is crap!