nature

Should Personal Drones Be Banned in National Parks?

Candice Gaukel Andrews by Candice Gaukel Andrews | June 16th, 2014 | 1 Comment
topic: Eco Travel, Green Living | tags: Caifornia, drones, Eco Travel, environment, Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Haleakala National Park, hawaii, Mojave National Preserve, national parks, nature, nature photography, Olympic National Park, photography, travel, UAV, Washington, wildlife, Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, Zion National Park

Bighorn sheep in Yellowstone National Park

Standing in the presence of the unbelievably immense, monolithic slabs of stone in Zion National Park is an experience that is not soon forgotten and, I’d argue, even spiritual. Gaze up at those massive sandstone cliffs as you hike The Narrows and you’d swear you’ve entered an alien world where 2,000-foot-high gods of rock rule. If you’re brave enough, you can even trek on the shoulders of those gods, by walking on the aptly named Angels Landing Trail. And since 84 percent of the park is designated as wilderness, there are scores of other spots where you can commune with nature and find solitude.

But now imagine that you’re in Zion walking that precipitous pathway — with sheer drop-offs on both sides — and a drone buzzes close by your head. Not only does that distract you and make you feel unsafe, it suddenly changes your great outdoor and unplugged experience.

Similar scenarios in our national parks have caused some of them — including Zion National Park — to ban drone use. While some applaud the move, others feel that their preferred way to photograph the parks is being unfairly singled out and prohibited. But is attaching a camera to a drone truly similar to other forms of photography?

Should We Intervene to Save Isle Royale National Park Wolves?

Candice Gaukel Andrews by Candice Gaukel Andrews | May 12th, 2014 | 2 Comments
topic: Eco Travel, Green Living | tags: biodiversity, Canada, climate change, Eco Travel, endangered-species, environment, global-warming, Isle Royale National Park, Lake Superior, moose, nature, Ontario, rising temperatures, species, threatened species, travel, U.S. National Park Service, wildlife, wolf, wolves, Yellowstone National Park

Wolf in Yellowstone National Park

On a wild, remote island in Lake Superior called Isle Royale, gray wolves have lived and thrived for more than 60 years. In the forests on this island — which encompasses the majority of Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park — a wolf population that grew to almost 50 individuals once contributed to a biodiverse, healthy ecosystem.

In recent years, however, the number of wolves on Isle Royale has plummeted. In 2009, scientists from the Wolves and Moose of Isle Royale project — begun in 1958 and now the longest continuous study of a predator-prey system in the world — documented only 24 wolves living on the island. As of February 2014, that number had dwindled to nine — the second lowest total for the island ever recorded.

Some blame climate change for the decrease. Others say it is just the natural order of things for species to come and go in a particular area. But whatever the cause, the question for the future health of the island and the park is: should we intervene to save Isle Royale’s wolves?

Into the Wild: Take Your Yoga Practice Outside

Nichole Golden by Nichole Golden | April 20th, 2014 | 1 Comment
topic: Green Living | tags: adventure, gaiam, hiking, into the wild, nature, nichole golden, outside, peace of mind, spirit, spiritual, spiritual practice, spirituality, ToeSox Yoga Flip Flops, Yoga, yoga outside

outside yoga

Winter is an interesting time for me — well, more specifically, an interesting time for my feet. I love summer because of the ease of slipping my toes into a pair of flip-flops and floppin’ around unencumbered by shoes. In fact, during cold months I wear winter’s flip-flop equivalent, moccasins; a shoe that is as close to a non-shoe as it gets.

In fact, one of the main reasons that I love teaching yoga as a profession is because I get to be barefoot for a living! There is something so freeing when my toes are unbound from the claustrophobic nature of high heels, tennis shoes, boots, mary janes … you name it! When my toes feel the freedom to roam, I find that my spirit has that same permission.  The sense of adventure that I feel when I am liberated from the shackles of my shoes is only matched by the abundant bliss that I feel when I am out in nature, spontaneously and effortlessly awakened by the wild untamed natural world.

There is one exception to this no-shoe strategy I tend to live by: my hiking boots.  When my feet inhabit these shoes, my sprit soars straight to its inherent wildness. Of course, it isn’t the shoes, per se, that illicit this magnificent response, it is what the shoes represent: trees, trails, birds, bees, sunrises, sunsets, mountains, moose, rivers, rocks … you get the idea. This wildness is as much as state of being as it is a location, in the wild, animate world. When I’m not on my yoga mat, this is certainly where you will find me — winding my way through the wide-open woods.

Which Comes First: The Needs of Endangered Animals or the People Who Live with Them?

Candice Gaukel Andrews by Candice Gaukel Andrews | April 14th, 2014 | 2 Comments
topic: Green Living | tags: China, conservation, Eco Travel, Endangered Species Act, endangered speices, environment, gray wolves, human treatment, International Crane Foundation, nature, species extinction, travel, Uganda, wildlife, wildlife poaching, Yellowstone National Park

Mountain gorilla

Wildlife conservation campaigns often focus on the needs of endangered species, asking you to donate money in order to save their habitats, fight poaching of them, stop illegal trade in them or build refuges for them.

But at a recent seminar at the Royal Anthropological Institute in London, Professor Catherine Hill of the city’s Oxford Brookes University suggested that such campaigns may be doomed to fail unless an added, important issue is addressed: the attitudes and feelings of the people who live in the threatened species’ ranges.

According to the results of a recent study conducted by Dr. Hill, residents of communities in Uganda felt that they were being treated as though their lives were worth less than those of the animals that surrounded them.

Can conservation efforts, then, no matter how well intended, ever succeed if the local populace feels that their needs come second?

SeaWorld’s Tilikum: Should Keeping Captive Orcas Be Banned?

Candice Gaukel Andrews by Candice Gaukel Andrews | February 14th, 2014 | 1 Comment
topic: Eco Travel, Green Living | tags: animal ambassadors, animals, Blackfish, captive wildlife, cetaceans, conservation, Dawn Brancheau, dolphins, endangered-species, environment, health, killer whales, marine creatures, marine environment, nature, ocean, orca, orcas, SeaWorld, Tilikum, travel, whales, wild, wildlife

orca in the wild

Last October, when CNN broadcast the documentary Blackfish, a film that tells the story of the 2010 killing of a SeaWorld trainer by an orca named Tilikum, there was a public outcry against marine parks — such as SeaWorld — that keep cetaceans in captivity. After the movie aired, several veterinarians and the director of the Dolphin Project at the Earth Island Institute in Berkeley, California, Ric O’Barry, stepped forward to state their professional opinions that confining orcas can make them psychotic.

SeaWorld, however, countered that marine parks such as theirs have done great works in conservation and that hundreds of millions of people have come to love and learn about orcas and other marine animals because of their popular shows and exhibits.

But given what we now know about how confinement can influence an animal’s behavior, should cetaceans ever be kept in a captive environment?

Are There Too Many Climate Change Deniers in Congress?

Candice Gaukel Andrews by Candice Gaukel Andrews | January 14th, 2014 | 3 Comments
topic: Eco Travel, Green Living | tags: carbon emissions, climate change, democrat, environment, extinction, global-warming, Greenland, health, icebergs, Industrial Revolution, nature, ocean health, republican, travel, wellness

Recently, while reading the November/December 2013 issue of Sierra, the magazine of the Sierra Club, I came across a graphic that startled me. It depicted two columns, labeled “House” and “Senate.” Under each of those titles were two more columns, showing the number of Democrats and Republicans in each branch of the legislature that are climate change deniers. Under the House section were 200 Democrats; none were listed as climate change deniers. Of the 233 Republicans, 128 deny climate change.

In the Senate, there were 52 Democrats (with two Independents), again with 0 climate change deniers. Of the 46 Republicans, 30 deny that the world is warming.

My goal here is not to cast aspersions on any one party but to look at the big picture. It is possible that we can make strides to protect the planet against the devastating effects caused by rapid climate change if our leadership fails to believe it is real?

What I’m Grateful For: A Yogi’s Perspective

Michelle Finerty by Michelle Finerty | November 27th, 2013 | No Comments
topic: Fitness, Personal Growth, Yoga | tags: arm balances, grateful, gratitude, happiness, love, meditation, nature, thanksgiving, Yoga, yogi

yoga gratitude

Around Thanksgiving, I’m drawn to the subject of gratitude and how to put it into practice on a daily basis. I have to admit, I’m not ready for the typical stress of the holiday season and am on a mission to keep the season as stress-free as possible with a mixture of appreciation for all that I have and awareness of all I can give.

Should Animals on the Brink of Extinction Be Used to Promote Tourism?

Candice Gaukel Andrews by Candice Gaukel Andrews | November 25th, 2013 | 9 Comments
topic: Eco Travel, Green Living | tags: African elephants, animals, Antarctica, at-risk species, Belize, Canada, Churchill, climate change, Eco Travel, ecotourism, Egypt, endangered-species, environment, extinction, extinction tourism, Galápagos Islands, glaciers, global-warming, habitat destruction, Madagascar, Manitoba, natural-habitat-adventures, nature, poaching, polar-bears, rainforest, Tanzania, tourism, tourists, travel, travelers, UNESCO, wildlife, wolves, Yellowstone National Park

Greenland big ice

I have to admit it: last year, my traveling to Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, to see polar bears in the wild was motivated not only by a 10-year anniversary but by a fear that soon the animals could be gone. I go to see glaciers because I’m afraid we’re losing them. And this coming January, I’m returning to Yellowstone National Park to try to photograph our nation’s wolves before they almost completely disappear in the Lower 48 — again.

You could call me an “extinction tourist.”

I’m far from unique. In fact, today people are traveling in ever-greater numbers to see what they think could quickly vanish from the Earth. While just a few years ago travelers might have endeavored to tick off all seven continents or Africa’s Big Five wildlife species, today there’s a certain “cred” given to those who see the landscapes, animals and plants that are just managing to hang on. And tour providers are tapping into that desire with their marketing messages. “See [fill in your favorite endangered animals] before they’re gone!”

But should tourism companies use threatened species as marketing tools? Given our ability to tune out ads, does that minimize the dire circumstances that these animals and environments are now in and dilute the attention that conservation messages might have been able to muster?

Eating Whale Blubber in Greenland: Politely Partake or Politically Pass Up?

Candice Gaukel Andrews by Candice Gaukel Andrews | October 25th, 2013 | 5 Comments
topic: Eco Travel, Green Living | tags: adventure, alaska, diet, eating locally, Eco Travel, environment, extinction, food, Green Living, Greenland, healthy-eating, International Whaling Commission, Inuit, natural-habitat-adventures, nature, nutrition, Siberia, subsistence hunting, threatened species, travel, whales, whaling, wildlife

Greenland

Throughout human history, the sharing and exchange of local food between people of different cultures has cemented social bonds and sealed agreements. Feasts often brought people from far-off places and varying ways of life together.

Today, whether you’re in a friend’s home or visiting a foreign land, partaking of your host’s served meal is considered polite — or, at least, that’s what I have been taught. So, when I recently traveled to Greenland and visited an Inuit community, I happily agreed to taste the traditional foods offered, including raw whale blubber, dried cod and simmered seal stew.

Wanting to share my adventure with friends, I posted a photo of myself eating the uncooked blubber on a social media site. To my surprise, I was met with strong disapproval by an acquaintance who works at an environmental organization.

When traveling, should you indulge in the traditional foods offered, even though eating them may not be “politically correct” in your own country?

Should U.S. Military Ranges Double as Wildlife Refuges?

Candice Gaukel Andrews by Candice Gaukel Andrews | September 27th, 2013 | 4 Comments
topic: Eco Travel, Green Living | tags: Army’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord, California, desert tortoises, endangered-species, environment, extinction, forests, Fort Irwin, island night lizard, killer whale, marine mammals, military, military ranges, National Marine Fisheries Service, national park, nature, NatureServe, navy sonar, orca, Oregon, Pentagon, prairies, Puerto Rico, San Clemente Island, San Clemente Island lizard, San Clemente Island loggerhead shrike, threatened species, travel, U.S. Defense Department, U.S. Forest Service, Vieques, Washington State, western snowy plovers, wetland restoration, wildlife, wildlife refuges

Orca in Washington State

When you think of endangered species in this country, struggling to survive in their native habitats, you probably picture them on national park or U.S. Forest Service lands. But according to NatureServe, a nonprofit conservation organization that tracks wildlife, U.S. Defense Department properties have the highest density of threatened and endangered species of any federal land management agency. The Pentagon states that on average, military lands boast 15 threatened and endangered species per acre — nearly seven times more per acre than on U.S. Forest Service tracts.

Our nation’s military lands, however, are first and foremost dedicated to preparing for armed readiness, meaning that military exercises, such as target practice, are routine. Is this the kind of environment in which we want threatened species to play out their last-ditch efforts for survival?