Was “go green” one of your New Year’s resolutions? Even if your composter is still empty and there are chemical cleaners still lurking in your cabinets, don’t fret — Only 12 percent of those who make New Year’s resolutions actually keep them for a year. Which, frankly, is 12 percent more than I would have guessed. But if you’re like me and the other 88 percent, what can help us keep resolutions is the support of others.
With that in mind, this Earth Day I’m enlisting my family in the greening goals I set for 2011. And by “greening” (aren’t we all just getting sick to death of that word?), I mean treading more lightly on my wallet, my Daytimer, my blood pressure and Mother Earth. Surely THAT’s a resolution worth fighting for!
About four years ago, the U.S. Geological Survey released a projection report stating that two-thirds of the world’s polar bears would be gone by 2050. Their numbers would plummet, stated the report, due to shrinking summer sea ice caused by greenhouse gases. Since that time, images of polar bears have graced water bottles, T-shirts and tote bags. It’s now widely accepted that Ursus maritimus is the poster child for climate change.
We also know of other species in great peril — mostly because of media attention to them. According to the Chinese zodiac, 2010 was the Year of the Tiger, and last November the International Tiger Forum was held in St. Petersburg in the Russian Federation. As the world’s first global summit focused on saving a single species from extinction, the event received widespread news coverage.
Because their likenesses appear on TV screens and spearhead conservation campaigns, chances are that even if you don’t live in tiger or polar bear habitats — where it would at least be possible for you to run into them during your daily life — you would miss them if they disappeared from our planet. But will you mourn the extinction of other species living today if you’ve never heard of them?
Our bodies are made of it (up to 70 percent) and we can’t survive without it for more than a few days. However, water, one of our most precious resources, is something most of us take for granted.
I count myself lucky on the “water front.” As a New Yorker, I was thrilled to learn that my city’s water supply is considered one of the best and that NYC is one of the five large cities not required to filter its drinking water. That’s pretty radical considering most of the world’s pure water supply is scarce.
The fictional Ace Ventura may be tops when it comes to pet detectives, but the real animal gumshoes may be of the nonhuman sort — at least when it comes to environmental issues. More and more, we are recognizing the incredible powers of observation and deduction our fellow creatures possess, and we are using them to help us uncover the “bad guys” in our air, homes and workplaces.
There are more tigers in captivity (such as this one) than there are left in the wild. ©John T. Andrews
There are some statistics that you hear that knock your socks off, and you just can’t quite believe them. You think they’re concocted purely to get attention and for shock value. Here’s one I recently came across that fits that category: There are more tigers in American backyards than there are left in the wild throughout the world.
How could that be?! I wondered. After all, the tiger isn’t even indigenous to the United States! It turns out that there is very little regulation on keeping wild tigers here. And because their body parts are prized in Asian black markets for traditional medicines and folk remedies — and because they are popular subjects for photographers and as college mascots — trafficking in and owning tigers becomes a means of making money.
Anyone who has ever watched a brown bear fish, or an elephant wallow in a water hole, or a curious sea lion come face to face with a snorkeler, knows that one of the highlights of eco-travel is close encounters with wildlife in natural settings.
If it’s late morning or mid-afternoon where you are, chances are that you’ve already had at least one fleeting thought about dinner tonight. You may be picturing a juicy steak, a tender pork roast or a golden, baked chicken. I doubt that many of you dream about a steaming plate of stink beetles, leeches or cave spiders.
In the ten years since I’ve been embarking on nature travels, I’ve seen a lot of outdoor gear evolve. Hiking boots, thermal undergarments and GPS units are just some of the items that have undergone striking advances.
But the one essential piece of outdoor equipment that has gone through a gamut of changes, caused the most controversy and been the most intriguing is the water bottle.
I will never forget the day I explained to my then four-year-old son that steak is really cow. First he cried, then he asked why we don’t eat dogs like our lab Lewis, or at least the lost dogs at the pound. I didn’t have a very good answer for that one. Which really got me thinking.
Buying a kayak qualifies as a “big purchase” for my family, and my husband and I recently took that huge step. Although we’ve had a canoe for a long time, this is our first acquisition of this type of silent-sports, aquatic craft.