Saturday, October 15, 2016

Could we please come to our senses?

I'm a Tim Egan fan. He wrote The Worst Hard Time about the greatest man-made environmental disaster EVER. 

So far. 


"Civility, always a tenuous thing, cannot be quickly restored in a society that has learned to hate in public, at full throttle."

by Timothy Egan 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Maybe my most important blog post ever.

 Taken from A Hopeful Act in a Perilous time

 Pam Houston's Dedication

When I was four years old my father broke my femur. I believe he meant to kill me, and for the next fourteen years it became my mother's job to try to keep him from getting another chance.  Needless to say, my childhood home was nervous at best and terrifying at worst, and it turned me into a woman who always takes notice when a man threatens a woman's life.

My father said to me often, Pam, one of these days you are going to wake up and realize you spend your whole life lying in the gutter with someone elses foot on your neck.  It was the closest thing he had to a world view.  Looked at a certain way my entire life has been dedicated to making his words untrue.    

Maybe its because I grew up in my fathers house that I can see Trump so clearly for what he is.  A desperately insecure bully, with no moral center--no center of any kind really--who feels momentarily powerful only when he is able to break those unlucky enough to step into his path.  

Trump has already vowed to destroy (or threatens by his very being) every single thing about my life that I value: the remaining wilderness, diversity of all kinds, education, art, animal rights, choice, affordable health care, compassion, tolerance, honesty, hard work, kindness, peace.  I have not lived well these 54 years just to end up with a sociopathic narcissists foot on my neck.

So I dedicate my No-Trump Vote to my four year-old self, smiling bravely for the camera in her 3/4 body cast, and for every little girl who lays awake at night in her room afraid, and to Hillary Clinton, who has dedicated much of her life to the betterment of girls and women, and who each day puts on her bulletproof vest and stands up for us all.  

To Dedicate Your No-Trump Vote, Click Here

PAM HOUSTON is the author of two novels, Contents May Have Shiftedand Sight Hound, two collections of short stories, Cowboys Are My Weakness and Waltzing the Cat, and a collection of essays, A Little More About Me, all published by W.W. Norton.  Her stories have been selected for volumes of The O. Henry Awards, The 2013 Pushcart Prize, and Best American Short Stories of the Century. She teaches in the Low Rez MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts, is Professor of English at UC Davis, and directs the literary nonprofit Writing By Writers. She lives at 9,000 feet above sea level near the headwaters of the Rio Grande and is at work on a book about that place.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Help Stop the Deportation of Endangered Chimpanzees

Finally, chimpanzees have been recognized as an endangered species and, in its first test of how their protection will be implemented, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, failed miserably.

Perhaps a backlash is in order.

"For almost two years, the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University has been working to send seven chimpanzees to a zoo in England, prompting the outrage of several animal welfare and conservation groups because the zoo is unaccredited and there are American sanctuaries ready to accept the chimps." From the NYTimes.

Here is the latest update in our critical campaign to stop the transfer of Emory’s Yerkes 7 endangered chimpanzees—Agatha, Elvira, Faye, Fritz, Lucas, Tara, and Georgia—to Wingham Wildlife Park in Kent, England. 

Immediately upon hearing Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s decision that New England Anti-vivisection Society NEAVS and its coalition lacked standing to stop the export permit, and upon reading the Court’s language regarding the export, including that “FWS’s [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s] broad interpretation [of the Endangered Species Act] appears to thwart the dynamic of environmental protection that Congress plainly intended,” it is obvious that the legality of this export permit was successfully challenged. (As background we have attached the entire court ruling, but most important are pages 56-58; key sections highlighted.) The Judge’s ruling places both Yerkes and FWS under a glaring spotlight. Even with the permit in hand, the illegality and accompanying immorality of this export is no longer in doubt. It is confirmed. 

NEAVS appealed directly to the Emory University President and its Board of Directors. You can view the letter here:

And to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, who soon will welcome Dan Ashe, Director of FWS under which this highly unethical and blatantly wrong interpretation of the Endangered Species Act has occurred. You can view the letter here:

NEAVS and its coalition of chimpanzee and conservation experts, former Yerkes caregivers, and animal advocates will leave NO STONE UNTURNED to stop this export of endangered lab chimpanzees. As we write, our lawyers are planning our prioritizing our next steps. Our staff are working hard on internal strategies.

We are now asking YOU to SPEAK OUT in opposition to this illegal export permit as it is in clear violation of what the U.S. Congress intended within the language of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 


1. Express your strong disapproval of the export permit TODAY by contacting Emory University President, Claire E. Sterk, Ph.D. at, or call Dr. Sterk at 404-727-6013. Implore her to make certain that Emory stops Yerkes’ complicity and blatant disregard for U.S. law and instead exhibits nothing less than the highest ethical standards of behavior by sending these and all of their chimpanzees to U.S. sanctuaries.

2. Contact Dan Ashe at FWS and ask him to suspend this export permit given the scathing language of the court calling into question why FWS thinks it has the right to “sell permits” when its mandate is to protect endangered species. You can contact him at or 202-208-4717.

Keep those emails and calls coming and spread the word. They need to be reminded that FWS did not prevail in this lawsuit on merit. The judgement was with NEAVS and the thousands who oppose this export. They prevailed on a legal technicality. And shame on them if they take advantage of that to the detriment of these 7 chimps, all captive U.S. chimps, and all chimpanzees worldwide.

Theodora Capaldo, EdD
Chief Executive Officer
New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

An off topic pet peeve

It drives me crazy to ask for water in a restaurant and have it come with a slice of lemon in it. When I order water, friends, in unison, will add "NO LEMON!" before I can. I know. In the scheme of all that can go wrong in one's life, this is silly. There are floods, fires, earthquakes, Zika, the Presidential campaign, what the hell is the big deal about a lovely slice of lemon in an icy glass of water?

First of all, I don't like the taste. I don't like bits of pulp drifting around in my water like mosquito larvae in puddle. I like water cold and crystal clear. But my main gripe is I don't know where that lemon has been. Was the skin washed before it was sliced? If not, what happy little, water-loving pathogens are swimming laps in my glass of water?

Ha! Vindication is mine! I'm not crazy, you lovers of lemon-in-my-water drinkers are.

You Should Never Ask For a  Slice Of Lemon In Your Drink 

Alice Sholl for Yahoo Health

Researchers  "found that almost 70% of those samples produced some kind of microbial growth, and included 25 different microbial species. . . Restaurant patrons should be aware that lemon slices added to beverages may include potentially pathogenic microbes.”

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Reposting of a blog by Maya Khosla

I know Maya Khosla from when she was a presenter at the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference a number of years ago.  Last week, a mutual friend sent this blog post of Maya's. I contacted her and asked to reprint it. It's been driving me nuts that every newscast about the fires here in California, and elsewhere, all refer how many acres have been "destroyed." Houses, businesses, and lives can be destroyed, but given time, the land rebounds, and there are native species that thrive after a fire. I hope you'll take the time to read this. It will give you a new perspective on wild land fires.
By Maya Khosla, posted on April 25, 2016

Fire Works

How valuable are forests of the American West that have experienced wildfire? With over 10 million acres that burned across the region in 2015, that question has sharply gained in prominence. Many of us understand that an average of 30 million acres burned annually in wildfires of the 1920s and 1930s – and acreages were even higher during prior decades (according to U.S. Forest Service records). 
Even so, the sheer power of today’s visuals often pose a challenge in accepting that wildfires –  with all their natural variables including low, medium and high severity – have been an integral part of western ecosystems for eons. 

                                    Rim fire spotted owl. Credit: Maya Khosla
The curious conservation biologist who hikes through post-fire forests will inevitably be rewarded with a number of sights that attest to their high ecological value. A more focused way to understand the forests is to venture out in search of rare birds. In 2014 and 2015, teams of biologists worked on protocol surveys to quantify the nest density of black-backed woodpeckers, which are increasingly rare in the Sierra Nevada-Cascades Region. With their glossy black backs, the woodpeckers are ideally equipped to live in burned forests abundant with high densities of snags (standing dead trees), each of which quickly grows rich with wood-boring beetle larvae – the woodpeckers’ preferred food source. Also colonized by bark beetle larvae, the “snag forests” support Lewis’s, pileated, hairy and white-headed woodpeckers, sapsuckers, northern flickers, nuthatches, an astonishing bustle of wildflowers, buzzing insects, song birds and other wildlife including deer, bears, and even Pacific fishers. Mornings are little short of dazzling.
The teams of biologists who began their surveys in 2014 were led by Dr. Chad Hanson (Director, John Muir Project of Earth Island Institute) and senior biologist Tonja Chi. For a thorough study, both burned and unburned forest plots were randomly selected across national forests of the Sierra Nevadas. Surveys were conducted in triplicate, within 300-hectare plots. Each plot contained three 100-hectare subplots, making it convenient for three biologists to survey one subplot at a time. 
                                                 Black-backed woodpecker.
Preliminary results indicate that nesting black-backed woodpeckers are found almost exclusively in recently burned forests. The woodpeckers are also found in unburned, “beetle kill” forests (with snags that are abundant with beetle larvae).  In both forests, the common denominator for black-backed woodpeckers is high densities of snags. True to their reputation as keystone species, the woodpeckers provide nests for a host of other birds including mountain bluebirds, western bluebirds, wrens, nuthatches, mountain chickadees and even for squirrels. During the 2015 surveys, team members also documented other rare birds in the post-fire forests, including the northern goshawk, California spotted owls, and Williamson's sapsucker – all in post-fire forests.
These forests typically include areas that have burned with high severity (where most trees turn into snags), moderate severity (anywhere between one quarter and three quarters of the trees had turned into snags) and low severity (where it’s mostly the understory that has burned). While fires may scorch large patches, many trees charred by the flames remain alive at the crown. They flush with new growth soon after the burn. However, post-fire forests are still misunderstood and routinely logged, so they are highly threatened habitats.
                                                 Pileated woodpecker
According to many experts, fire and black-backed woodpeckers are inextricably linked. The long-term black-backed woodpecker study will continue through the 2016 field season and is anticipated to corroborate results of existing data from other sources, and to provide valuable data about the woodpecker’s habitat uses.  Solid estimates of the Sierra Nevada-Cascades population of black-backed woodpeckers are also expected to result from the study. 
Many other observations are revealing the high value of post-fire forests. A year after the King Fire in El Dorado National Forest, carpets of conifer seedlings were observed rising from the ashes along with three rare plants. One of them, the longfruit jewelflower (first described by Glen Clifton and Roy Buck in 2007), had never been sighted in El Dorado before. Two years after the 2013 Rim Fire in Yosemite National Park and the Stanislaus National Forest, vast areas with mature pines that were presumed dead had bounced back to life. Seedlings were popping up everywhere in the high-intensity burn areas. 
Authors Jon Keeley and others demystify the abundance of regenerating plants by explaining the “fire-generated chemical stimulus for germination” found in many plant families.” An exciting new book, The Ecological Importance of Mixed-Severity Fires: Nature’s Phoenix (edited by Dominick DellaSalla and Chad Hanson), gives us dozens of examples of the high biodiversity found in post-fire forests, and an ever-increasing number of studies are speaking reams about the value of forests after wildfire.

Author Bio

Maya is a biologist and writer who worked with the black-backed woodpecker team in 2014 and filmed them in 2015. She has written Web of Water: Life in Redwood Creek and Notes from the Field (Golden Gate Parks Conservancy Press); Tapping the Fire, Turning the Steam: Securing the Future with Geothermal Energy (World Wide Fund for Nature); Heart of the Tearing: Poems (Red Dust Press); and Keel Bone (Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize; Bear Star Press). She has received writing awards from Flyway Journal, Headlands Center for the Arts, Hedgebrook Foundation, and Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation and filming awards from Patagonia, Sacramento Audubon Society (for the Searching for Gold Spot project) and the Save Our Seas Foundation (For the Turtle Diaries project).

Monday, August 15, 2016

Playing Environmental Jenga


Jenga is a game . . . where players take turns removing one block at a time from a tower constructed of 54 blocks. Each block removed is then balanced on top of the tower, creating a progressively taller but less stable structure. The name jenga is derived from a Swahili word meaning "build".   From Wikipedia


Here on the north coast of California, August usually sees all the coves filled with floating masses of Bull Kelp, Nereocystis luetkeana, which is an annual, and food for at least 50 organisms. It covers rocks and washes ashore on the beaches, attracting birds to the flies it draws. Down the coast in Monterey, it's where the sea otters nap. 

This summer the coves look more like this.
photo by Ron LeValley
Bull kelp has been disappearing, presumably eaten by an abundance of spiny sea urchins. Sea urchins are preyed upon by starfish, properly call sea stars, but there has been a die-off of sea stars from what has become known as "Starfish wasting syndrome."

"As voracious predators on the ocean floor, sea stars are ‘keystone’ species that have a large role in maintaining diversity in their ecosystem."

In a study done at the Cornell University , the disease was found to be a parvovirus commonly found in invertebrates.  

"There are 10 million viruses in a drop of seawater, so discovering the virus associated with a marine disease can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. . .Not only is this an important discovery of a virus involved in a mass mortality of marine invertebrates, but this is also the first virus described in a sea star.”

“It’s the experiment of the century for marine ecologists,” said Harvell (of Cornell.) “It is happening at such a large scale to the most important predators of the tidal and sub-tidal zones. Their disappearance is an experiment in ecological upheaval the likes of which we’ve never seen.”

This may be one block too many pulled from the stack.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Act locally, Think globally

Second Chance Rescue started out finding homes for old, mostly small dogs, often ones whose owners had died. It was started in Hayward, California, by Jeanne Mocker and Steve Sapontzis. The idea being that small dogs would be easier to find new homes for, and that there were older people out there who would benefit from having a companion. 

I remember my mother saying, when our last pet died, that she was too old to get another one. I pooh pooh her. Now I am her. I'm not quite at the age where I don't buy green bananas, and I'm as drawn to kittens and puppies as the next person, but to be fair to the animal I take in, it doesn't make sense to adopt a baby anything. (If you've read this blog before, you know I have a 35 year old parrot,  Parrots & PTSD, who can expect to live another 50 years.)

Jeanne and Steve also linked up with animal rescue groups in other counties. For example, the Fresno County shelter couldn't readily find homes for small dogs but could for larger dogs. Steve and Jeanne created a swap program. 

Some of the dogs left at shelters had treatable illnesses, but were virtually un-adoptable. Destine to be euthanized, Steve and Jeanne took them. When they reached eight in number, they decided to attempt to provide medical care for people who wanted to keep their dogs but couldn't afford to treat their illnesses. Then came the recession. People were losing their jobs and homes, and more and more dogs were brought into shelters and humane societies by owners who could no longer afford their pets. Steve and Jeanne realized if they could help low income people keep and care for their animals, fewer would be given up. They linked up with the Fort Bragg Food Bank, and the rest is history. Below is a link to a seven-minute video produced by one of the many volunteers now helping fulfill the needs of low income pet owners on the Coast.

Fundraising efforts and donations have kept this program alive, but Steve and Jeanne absorb most of the cost. To donate, please go to 
and if you know of grants available please let Steve know.