In the hot, desert climate of Dubai on the Arabian Peninsula, 20 penguins are living in comfort, say the managers of Ski Dubai, the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East. The birds reside in a climate-controlled environment, receive the best veterinary care, and never have to worry about lurking predators.
When you visit Ski Dubai, you can pay to have a “penguin encounter,” where you’ll be able to play with and touch the penguins. Representatives of the resort say that these animals are “ambassadors,” teaching patrons about their wild counterparts and the need to conserve their threatened natural habitat, Antarctica.
But can animals that have been born and raised in captivity and habituated to humans in unnatural ways ever be true ambassadors for the natural world? Can they teach us anything about the wild or move us to care for the environments from which they are so distantly removed?
This summer — like almost every summer for the past decade or so — was rife with headlines about people being assaulted by wild animals. “Seven teens attacked by grizzly in Alaska’s Talkeetna Mountains,” read a headline in the Anchorage Daily News on July 25, 2011. And, “Two teenagers have life-threatening injuries after being mauled by a grizzly bear while on a survival skills course in the Alaskan wilderness,” the first line of a Guardian feature informed us.
The italics on the words “mountains” and “wilderness” above, however, are mine. I think it noteworthy where these events took place. Against our ever-increasing penchant for developing remote areas and fragmenting wildlife corridors, the world’s largest predators have been squeezed onto smaller and smaller pockets, with nowhere to go but the mountains and the wilderness. Today, grizzlies, wolves, tigers and lions are having trouble finding room to be grizzlies, wolves, tigers and lions. And, without them, our planet is in big trouble.
Part One of a two-part series on light pollution and dark sky conservation and tourism.
Few experiences instill more wonder than sitting outside on a summer night and looking up at the stars. Locating constellations, spying satellites and hoping for the flash of a falling meteor are pastimes sure to fill you with a sense of awe. But finding a place for serious stargazing can be a challenge. Until you’ve seen a truly dark sky, you don’t even know what you’re missing. Part One of this two-part series explores the need to protect and promote our natural starscapes. Stay tuned for Part Two, to find the best places to view the night sky.
As Earth Day’s 40th birthday approaches, I think it’s a good time to take pause and consider the small people in our lives who stand to inherit a pretty big planetary mess. And while I, in sincere optimism, try to avoid the “doom and gloom” that oftentimes tags the questionable state of our planet, it’s important to note that our children and children’s children will be positioned to make important decisions based on the action (or inaction) that we big people take today.