Overview of the Class

As we get to the end of the class, I’m glad it’s over in the sense that I can go back to doing my part in reversing climate change/global warming while not having to deal with the reality of it every other day in class. This class was immensely educational. From learning more about the ESA, then getting frustrated with it, to learning more about the California Clapper Rail. I’ve probably learned more about the ESA compared to the other subjects in the class, partially because its the subject I knew the least about, but also because of the research projects we had to complete in the semester. Salt marshes have always been in the background, living in Foster City, but now I look at it in a completely different way. Now when I see the marshlands I don’t get angry at the smell, I look at it hoping I might see a Clapper Rail or a Harvest Mouse (probably not). But the class has changed the way I look at certain environmental aspects of society.

I knew quite a bit about global warming, our increasing populuation (which reached 7 billion people), our depleaeting resources, but I never knew how closely interrelated all of these issues are. While I’m disappointed I didn’t take advantage of volunteer opportunities, I was able to visit a few aquariums donate money that way and even do my part to save acres of coral reef via SaveNature.org. I appreciate these aquariums I’ve been to this semester so much more than I did in the past, and I consider myself to be environmentally conscious. In the past I would simply pay my entrance fee and move on, but now I’m more than happy to help fund these organizations by buying a membership, plus this will force me to go back and enjoy wildlife more than a few times a year. I think everyone needs to visit  these places at least once or twice a year just to remind themselves that we aren’t alone and what we do has a big impact on wildlife species.

This class hasn’t made me into an optimist by any means, especially when you see the effects our use of plastic has had, but if everyone in this class looks at the environment in different ways than before taking the class than it’s one more step in changing how we live. I’m not saying everyone needs to drastically change their lives, but doing little things like using reusable container, grocery bags and reducing oil consumption, these things can go a long way to help reverse some effects we’ve caused. I said it once in class, if everyone does their part we’ll be heading in a much better direction.

If only we can make it mandatory that every student at SF State has to take this environmental course, then we’ll be going places.

Plastic Attacks Again

We’ve been talking about Climate Change pretty much the entire semester, but as we get more into the topic I can’t help but be reminded of this image posted on NPR. “Since 2009, photographer Chris Jordan has been documenting birds on Midway Atoll way out in the Pacific Ocean — near what’s known as the “Pacific Garbage Patch” or, essentially, a swirling heap of plastic the size of Texas.”

The images that Jordan has taken speaks a lot to the long way we have to go to reverse climate change or our dependence on materials that don’t degrade. “about one-third of all albatross chicks die on Midway, many as the result of being mistakenly fed plastic by their parents.” That’s insane. I’ve spent my entire life using these products thinking, oh well we recycle so that should help, but the harsh reality is you have to do more than just recycle. That’s why I’m glad I live in the Bay Area where we have the opportunity to compost the materials we use and more and more people are continuing to use reusable containers and restaurants using compostable materials.

We still have a long way to go as many cities aren’t as “green” as Bay Area cities. The eight images shown are pretty disturbing and should be shown along side those images of marine life getting stuck in soda can rings. Even though the SF State campus provides us with so many options to recycle, compost or use reusable materials I see too many students ignore this and simply throw recyclable materials into the trash, compostable materials into the recycle bin or simply toss everything in the trash. Seeing people do that in this class is even more frustrating, its like “haven’t you guys been paying attention all semester?”

Baby steps I guess is better than no steps at all, but as we’ve been learning we could be at a point of no return unless we start to turn things around fast.

Full Article including images: http://www.npr.org/blogs/pictureshow/2011/10/31/141879837/how-soda-caps-are-killing-birds

Cabrillo National Monument Tidepooling

I got a chance to go on a naturalist led Tidepool expedition over Thanksgiving break at Cabrillio National Monument. Though it was cold and I was not prepared for getting my shoes wet, which happened thanks to a rouge wave, the $5 I paid to get in was completely worth it. Below are some of the marine life I saw while at the tidepool, they include: Giant Keyhole Limpet, Brittle Starfish, Kelp Crab, Kelp Fish and Rock Crab. We saw a lot of other species as well, but these were the highlights.

The Giant Limpet was the first thing we saw and drew a large crowd. We ended up picking up more people (families really) who started following our group so they can learn a little about what they were looking at. The Giant Limpet was a mystery to us too until we came across a Park Ranger who identified it for us. This big mushroom looking limpet was pretty creepy but also it was a great way to start the tidepooling. The tidepool trip was only the maybe 5th time I’ve gone to one and my first since about 8 years ago. I was shocked at what was hidden in the kelp and water. The kelp fish was pretty amazing, i’ve never seen one so close up before. They have transparent sclaes that mimic the kelp that they hide in, pretty amazing for a small fish. The Kelp Crab was also something I’ve never seen before. As you can see from the images we couldn’t get him to let go of the kelp.

We spent about an hour at the tidepool and it was cool to have someone who knew how to find the marine life with us as a guide, especially to point out the random wildlife we spotted. Unfortunately I didn’t touch any of the wildlife, for fear of my life, but it was exciting to see them close up and to see the excitement on everyone’s faces when we did find something. I even did my part to clean up the tidepool by picking up random styrrofoam scattered throughout the tidepool and a car starter…. that one was strange but I was able to hold onto it and give it to a Park Ranger who was going around picking up garbage left by visitors or that washed up on the beach.

Keystone Pipeline Decision Delyaed

“The U.S. State Department is ordering the developer of a pipeline that would carry oil from western Canada to Texas to reroute it around environmentally sensitive areas of Nebraska. That means possibly delaying a final U.S. decision until after the 2012 election.”

Not sure if I should be excited or worried. It’s a smart thing to do on the President’s part since he won’t have to deal with it during the election, but I’m sure it will come up once or twice. It is a very difficult decision that will have to be made, maybe not so difficult if the next President is a Republican. The argument now is that the pipeline will be creating thousands of jobs, jobs that people in   North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illionois, Oklahoma and Texas would gladly take. The issue with this pipeline is not only is it stretching across the U.S from Canada, but the amount of resources we would get isn’t that substantial.

In another article posted on NPR, Josh Freed VP for the clean energy program at Third Way, mentions that too many U.S trucks rely on oil and that our dependence on it can’t be changed so quickly. “you can’t switch over in one year or five years or 10 years,” he says. “It’s going to take a long time.” I actually think he’s wrong. Because the trucking industry is so huge, if they were to embrace a massive overhaul in the type of trucks they use it would make a large impact on the type of vehicles consumers use. The technology has to be there, sure, but even if they all switched to biofuel and biodiesel trucks it would go a long way towards changing our use of oil in a very short amount of time.

For now we just have to wait and see if the keystone pipeline will be delayed indefinitely or if they’ll start breaking ground at the end of next year.

Full Article: http://www.npr.org/2011/11/10/142218646/final-keystone-pipeline-decision-delayed

Section 10 of ESA

Section 10 of the ESA allows for exemptions for non-federal entities. This exception allows for HCPs (Habitat Conservation Plans) by obtaining an ITP (incidental take permit). Although it may not be used as it was intended, many companies can now cause harm to species that are listed on the ESA and those who may be a candidate species. Basically giving these entities a free pass if they cause harm to a species. While working on the take-home midterm, and after listening to a lot of the presentations, it’s very clear that Section 10 is at the root of a lot of the issues that ESA supporters face.

This exception allows companies to seemingly do the opposite of what the ESA was brought in to do. It’s very upsetting that this is allowed, but not only that, part of the HCP is that the company or entity is supposed to recover a separate habitat in return for taking one. It’s my understanding that this doesn’t actually happen with any sort of urgency. Those who uphold the ESA have to spend so much more time fighting section 10, and fighting in litigation; but if it wasn’t for this exception maybe they could be spending their resources recovering habitats. As we’ve learned not too many species have been delisted form the ESA, although many species are still alive because of it. This should be more cause for concern but it doesn’t seem to be the case.

Another big issue at hand is the rate at which candidate species are accepted to be placed on the ESA. Some of this is due to funding, which again maybe if we spent less time dealing with litigation there might be more time for saving these endangered species. Really it frustrates me that there is an exception to the ESA. In my opinion the compromise shouldn’t be made to take land that could potentially harm endangered species. We see the effects it has with Cargill and the salt marshes. They have so many that some of them aren’t being restored but instead are being sold to other companies and filled to create a new building. This is happening in Redwood City right this moment, simply because they weren’t able to remove all the salt and instead of restoring it, they are filling it.

Effect of ESA on Environmental Activist

 

I just finished up my portion of the ESA Stakeholder Project. After a few revisions I came down what you see below. As a part of the Environmental Activist group, I learned quite a bit about how the ESA effects this group and their ability to protect species. Obviously with a few sections like HCP, it makes the job of the environmental activist that much harder. But having the ESA allows them to protect species that they might not have been able to. I spoke to Kathryn the T.A who helped me shape my presentation and help me see the two types of Activist that arguably were created due to Section 10.

Presentation:

Changes to the ESA such as section 10 exceptions authorizing HCPs, has created two different types of environmental activists: compromising groups and the non-compromising groups. One compromising group is Save the Bay. Their goal is to save bay area species and habitats, not only for the good of the species but for our benefit as well.  The HCP exceptions limit what we can do to protect these habitats and species. Due to HCP exceptions there has been immense loss of habitat for things like commercial salt ponds and other building projects. These companies that build on these habitats are required to restore habitat in other areas, a process called mitigation

Loss of marshlands can cause unknown effects to the hundreds of species who rely on them, but also to people who live by the marshlands. These communities are left facing the risks of unchecked flooding with the loss of the wetlands. Since mitigation isn’t happening as often as we would hope, environmental groups such as Save the Bay have to rely on the community for funding and volunteering to restore these marshlands that so many endangered species rely on. Save the Bay must also spend more resources defending loss of habitat compared to restoring habitat. An example of this is when they spent years preventing SFO’s bay filling for extended runways from 1998-2003. They are also currently trying to prevent Cargill from filling 1,400 acres of restorable salt ponds in Redwood City. A positive that come from HCPs is the fact that Save the Bay is able to acquire land for restoration because companies are required to do so.

Primitive ferns fierce in fighting pollution

I’m learning something new every week having to write these jounrals. Today I saw an article released last week on sfgate.com where they talked about the ability of ferns to help clean up pollution. Who Knew? Probably a lot of biologist and bio students, but I didn’t know about it until now. It’s called Phytoremediation. The article mentions that ferns are the best at this practice of reducing toxicity in soils.

According to the article, ferns used to cover much of the earth, but evolution has forced them to evolve to much smaller sizes. The plants have survived for hundreds of millions of years. The article highlights a particular fern, Chinese brake fern (Pteris Vittata) which are deemed hyper-accumulators. This particular fern is able to pick up heavy metals from the soil and apparently is great at extracting arsenic.

The article mentions that arsenic is now being used to kill insects, bacteria and fungi, though it has been used previously as a wood preservative. The decomposing wood treated with arsenic will leave behind some arsenic which can be picked up by this fern. The problem with this is the Petris Vittata, is not native to the U.S. and is considered an invasive species in the south, especially Florida.

I’m not quite sure what the impact of that fern species is, but if they are so good at cleaning up pollutants, i’m pretty sure we should start covering the earth with ferns. Probably not the best idea, I know, but maybe we should surround metal plants or industrial plants with ferns so at least it cleans up that area. Pretty amazing what plants can do, it’s a shame that we try our hardest to get rid of all the forests on earth.

Full Article: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/10/12/DDHG1LFORB.DTL