Giant Swamp Rats and the Rights of Invasive Species


I have always tried to stand up for the rights of other beings and I believe that they at least deserve consideration. However, the issue of invasive species is challenging. On one hand, here is a creature that deserves the right to live and feed in its habitat, just as a human would. On the other hand, it is destroying the habitat and can drive native creatures to extinction. Matt Cantor from Newser Staff documents this dilemma in a Detroit Free Press article about Nutria, a cute species of swamp rat responsible for large-scale erosion in southern Louisiana.

While it is clear that the Nutria is disastrous for Louisiana, it also seems unfair to have them systematically eliminated, especially since humans were responsible for their introduction into the area (they were brought from Argentina for fur). Take a look at this brief article and keep this in mind when you consider the rights of invasive species. Think about what species have been problematic to the area you live in. What do you think is an effect strategy to contain them? Is there a humane option?

Source: “Louisiana is shrinking, thanks to giant swamp rats”. Matt Cantor. Detroit Free Press. 9 May 2013.

Image: Eustis Christine, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


Canadian Government Ups Tar Sands Advertising


Now it would be nice for me to post about something besides the Alberta Tar Sands (and I will very soon), but you can’t make this stuff up. In light of Barack Obama having to make a decision about the XL Pipeline this year, the Canadian Government has doubled its advertising budget. Who would’ve thought that you need to launch a massive advertising campaign for a huge deposit of one of the most vital natural resources on the planet? Well, just ask the European Union, which has officially categorized Tar Sands as separate from conventional crude oil due to the higher resulting greenhouse gas emissions. The Canadian Government considers this to be: “Discriminatory…not based on science and it would potentially hurt Canada’s ability to access markets for its resources” (Goldenberg 2013). Hilarious.

Check out Suzanne Goldenberg’s great article in The Guardian here:

Oh, and that picture is of Joe Oliver, Canadian Minster of Natural Resources. Good guy…..

Source: “Canadian Government Doubles Advertising Spend on Tar Sands”. Suzanne Goldenberg. The Guardian. 16 May 2013.

Image: Oil Change International

That’s it, I’m Going to Become an Elephant’s Foster Mom

A few days ago I came across the website for The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and have been hooked since. The conservation is wonderfully attentive about giving updates on their resident orphaned elephants and rhinos. Filmed rescues and moments in the nursery are uploaded almost weekly, and keeper logs give even more heartwarming insight to the daily lives of the animals. Over the years the Trust has successfully rehabilitated many Kenyan indigenous species back into the wild with the help of suporters and two fully operational mobile veterinary units. The best part of the site is an opportunity to foster an orphan for $50 a year. I can’t wait to take part in an amazing program for these endangered creatures. I’m going to become an elephant’s foster mom!

Photograph by Michael Nichols – “Orphans playfully vie for a bottle of formula not finished by little Sities, the blanketed baby at the keeper’s feet.”

Image Source: Michael Nichols, National Geographic Magazine, 2011

Sources: The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, 2013

Upcoming March Against Monsanto

This Saturday, May 25th, will be the March Against Monsanto.  Monsanto’s history has not been pretty. Volumes can be written concerning the biotech monopoly’s influence in the political and academic world, patenting of manmade “life”, and creation of harmful chemicals including Agent Orange. The March Against Monsanto states they will protest for the following:

  • “Research studies have shown that Monsanto’s genetically-modified foods can lead to serious health conditions such as the development of cancer tumors, infertility and birth defects.”
  • “In the United States, the FDA, the agency tasked with ensuring food safety for the population, is steered by ex-Monsanto executives, and we feel that’s a questionable conflict of interests and explains the lack of government-led research on the long-term effects of GM products.”
  • “Recently, the U.S. Congress and president collectively passed the nicknamed “Monsanto Protection Act” that, among other things, bans courts from halting the sale of Monsanto’s genetically-modified seeds.”
  • “For too long, Monsanto has been the benefactor of corporate subsidies and political favoritism. Organic and small farmers suffer losses while Monsanto continues to forge its monopoly over the world’s food supply, including exclusive patenting rights over seeds and genetic makeup.”
  • “Monsanto’s GM seeds are harmful to the environment; for example, scientists have indicated they have contributed to Colony Collapse Disorder among the world’s bee population.”

To find the closest march near you, refer here to the sites’ listing by country, state, and city.


Image Source:

Sources: Monsanto: A Corporate Profile, Food and Water Watch, April 8 2013; Sara Ventiera, Broward Palm Beach New Times, April 8 2013; Emilie Rensink, March Against Monsanto, April 2 2013;

Forage Your Neighborhood with this Map!

This map created by pinpoints your location and displays trees in your area to forage from. You can also add sources to further build the database for others. The site states, “Falling Fruit is a celebration of the overlooked culinary bounty of our city streets… Foraging in the 21st century is an opportunity for urban exploration, to fight the scourge of stained sidewalks, and to reconnect with the botanical origins of food.” Happy picking!

Falling Fruit Map

Image Source:

Sources: Falling Fruit, 2013;

Poachers Ravage the “Village of Elephants”

The WWF (World Wildlife Fund) reported earlier last week that 17 individuals armed with Kalashnikov rifles invaded Dzanga-Ndoki National Park to poach the reserves’ elephants. Apparently, some members of the group approached researchers asking for food and directions to the Dzanga Bai, also known as the “village of elephants”. Anywhere from 50 to 200 elephants group here daily to drink. After giving the poachers a false lead, the researchers heard gunshots and other sources witnessed men shooting from the Dzanga Bai tower overlook.

Forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) in Dzanga Bai. Image © WWF / Carlos Drews

“Unless swift and decisive action is taken, it appears highly likely that poachers will take advantage of the chaos and instability of the country to slaughter the elephants living in this unique World Heritage Site.”, said Jim Leape, WWF International Director General. He continued, “Wildlife crime is not only a consequence of instability, but a cause. It fuels violence in the region, in a vicious circle that undermines the stability of these countries and their economic development.” Political turmoil occurring in the Central African Republic has opened the floodgate for chaos and monetary gain.”

The Huffington post later reported that at least 26 elephant were slaughtered, including four calves, were found near the Dzanga Bai on Thursday.

If this makes you as sick as it makes me, watch this video of locals in India working together to save a baby elephant.
There is still compassion in the world. You can help.

To learn more about elephants and ways to help end their suffering, visit the WWF.


Sources: WWF, May 07 2013; Denise Chow, May 10 2013;

Square Foot Gardening Infographic

Don’t have enough yard to till for a garden? Don’t have a yard at all? If you have a 4′ x 4′ space outside, you can build a raised garden bed for $50 or less! Check out this infographic by Frugal Dad for instructions.

Image Source:

Plant Talk

Two recent articles shed light on different ways plants communicate. The Huffington Post described a study by BMC Ecology in which sound wave vibration emitted by plants affects growth of neighboring plants.

Image Credit BBC


The article stated, “Despite the separation, chili seeds germinated faster when basil was a neighbor, suggesting that a message was getting through. Because light, touch, and chemical “smell” were ruled out, the team proposes that the finding points to a new type of communication between plants, possibly involving nanoscale sound waves, traveling through the dirt to bring encouraging “words” to the growing seeds.” BBC released an article delving into a study by the University of Aberdeen, the James Hutton Institute, and Rothamsted Research on plant communication between fungus networks. These networks, called “mycorrhizae”, have the ability to relay warning signals from damaged and infested plants to their neighbors.

Not only are both studies mind-boggling, they hold potential for agricultural systems to better understand how to arrange and strategize their crops.

Sources: Andrew Porterfield, The Huffington Post, May 7 2013; BBC, May 10 2013


Protect Your Plants from Late Frost!


I thought it was time for a bit of a more light-hearted post. Over the past few days, I have heard many people discussing their concerns over the cold and how to protect the plants they may have already put in, or those that have germinated in their gardens. Here are two helpful links, one from Robin Erb of the Detroit Free Press and one from Michigan State University’s Extension Office, through which I received my master gardener training. Both of them emphasize that using fabric is preferable to plastic. Take a look! Detroit Free PressMSU Extension

Sources: Robin Erb, Detroit Free Press, May 12 2013; Bert Cregg, MSU Extension, April 11 2013


Facebook, Zuckerberg, and Big Oil

Facebook has established itself as a social platform juggernaut, with more than 1.11 billion users. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder , has recently raised some eyebrows with his new political group The effort was supposedly launched to create discussion and action around immigration reform, until ulterior motives were brought to light in recent T.V. campaigns. The ads aired made no mention of immigration reform, but rather backed politicians supporting drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) and creation of the Keystone XL pipeline. Progressive groups such as, the Sierra Club, CREDO, and Presente have threatened to cancel Facebook ad contracts and hold bought ad placements. “It’s disappointing that having taken a very public stand for clean, renewable energy, Mark Zuckerberg is now playing the politics of dirty oil. You’d hope the visionary behind Facebook would be looking to the clean energy economy of our future rather than falling for the pipe dreams of the dinosaur fossil fuel industry. Where’s the dislike button?” Ross Hammond, senior campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said in a statement. Facebook ads made by CREDO against Zuckerberg’s actions have been removed by Facebook for “violating advertising policies”.

CREDO Mobile's Facebook ad

CREDO Mobile’s Facebook ad has already raised $25 million. However, the platform in which Zuckerberg found his success may in turn facilitate the destruction of his image. Countless case-studies of social media backlash have ruined businesses that have made controversial decisions. It will be interesting, and quite vindicating, to see what happens next. And don’t feel bad taking a hand in it. Power in the masses, social media style.

Source: Amanda Terkel, Huffington Post, May 7 2013; Andy Kroll, Mother Jones, May 7 1013; Aviva Shen, Think Progress, Apr 30, 2013; Jessica Guynn, Los Angeles Times, April 11 2013