Climate change skeptics

IMG_1552It’s hard to believe with all the scientific studies and with all the news stories of once-in-a-hundred year storms every week that there are still many climate change skeptics in the US.  But, polling shows many Americans do not believe in climate change.

The Environmental Defense Fund published five suggestions on how to discuss the issue with skeptics.  My summary:

1. Don’t dismiss or insult them, just refute their ideas (but super gently).  Calling someone ignorant is a sure fire way they will tune you out.  You need to have a civil discussion.

2. Don’t paint a portrait of catastrophe.  Even though you want to shock them into believing in science, it might just make them feel helpless.  Instead, talk about new technology helping the economy and how cleaner air and water is good for everyone, particularly kids and grandkids.

3. Find areas they care about – if they love animals, talk about climate change hurting species like elephants.  If they fear immigration, talk about migrations of populations and conflicts that arise from lack of resources due to climate change.  If they are religious, point out that religious leaders such as Pope Francis have supported international cooperation on climate change issues.

4. Find the personal in the world.  Hearing stats of large numbers or seeing floods in far away lands sadly doesn’t make a lasting impression.  Hearing about a family who lost everything in Harvey after losing it all in Katrina may be more memorable and heart wrenching.

5. Know facts.  Be smart and do your research and use reputable sources.  The latest thing you saw on Facebook doesn’t count…unless it was a link to Nature or some other reputable scientific journal and you read it.



Northern Rangelands Trust: saving wildlife, improving communities

The Northern Rangelands Trust believes that conservation is not only good from an environmental standpoint, but an economic one as well.  That is why they have worked in Northern Kenya with help from USAID to invest in saving elephants and increasing eco-tourism.  NRT was founded in 2004, and has done amazing work.  There has been a significant decline in poaching in areas where they operate.  CITES estimated in 2014 that 60% of killed African elephants were killed illegally – but that number was 46% in Northern Kenya and was continuing to trend downwards.


From Forbes Magazine:

In 2015, tourism revenues to NRT conservancies from entry and bed-night fees totaled over US$ 410,000 – a really significant income for these remote and marginalized communities, derived from their wildlife. Two safari lodges – Sarara and Il Ngwesi – are actually owned by the community, who contract operators to manage them. Wildlife tourism revenues are split 40/60 – with 40% going toward annual conservancy operating costs (like ranger salaries and vehicle fuel) and 60% going toward development projects deemed a priority by the constituent community at their Annual General Meetings. Most commonly the communities decide to spend these funds on educational bursaries for the poorest family, health care support, and water supplies to reduce the burden on women from collecting water from afar.

March for Science on Earth Day

IMG_5797An estimated 800 people showed up at 9:30am on a cold Saturday morning to March for Science in my city.

The March for Science coincided with Earth Day, and events took place worldwide.

Activists are hoping to shed light on the importance of science funding and support – after all, we need science to make medical breakthroughs and advances, to help us create better technology that will allow us to have cleaner energy, and to provide governments with evidence-based research so government policy can be more effective for all.  As Neil deGrasse Tyson says, our goal is to “Recognize what science is and allow it to be what it can and should be in the service of civilization.”


My city has two major research universities.  Here’s a snippet of an article about the effect of proposed budget cuts on one, from USA Today:

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, billed as a “Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” would leave big holes in research funding.

The budget has raised a host of concerns from University of Rochester officials, who noted that federal funds account for the lion’s share of UR’s research budget — 72 percent of $361.7 million last fiscal year, which ended on June 30.

“The proposed cuts would severely impact our research programs and university operations, curtail our ability to recruit and retain research talent and train the next generation of scientists, and significantly diminish the university’s contribution to regional growth,” said UR President Joel Seligman, in a recent message to UR faculty and staff.

Photos: taken by me


I had a personal reason to attend The March for Science.  My dad was an engineer at Kodak, and his team was honored by the EPA in 2003.  He received the award for developing and commercializing the Particle Transfer Roller (PTR), which is today used by almost every film lab and film-to-video transfer facility, and it reduces the use of solvents in cleaning film.  He won the award for protecting the ozone layer.

He was always interested in environmental technology.  Here’s an article about another project he did from Film Journal in 2004:

Silver-applicated soundtracks require toxic redeveloper solutions that use 10 chemicals on the EPA watch list. As much water is used in the print-washing process as would serve the drinking water needs of a city of 100,000. Soundtrack application errors are a major cause of print rejection. Their silver content complicates the disposal of the more than 10 billion feet of used film stock annually. All in all, this old technology had become ever more costly, in environmental impact as well as in dollars and cents…Anticipating environmental legislation that might affect the film industry in the future, John Pytlak of Kodak approached Ioan Allen of Dolby Laboratories in the early 1990s. He thought there might be an electronic solution, and that Dolby’s soundtrack expertise could help find it. He was mostly right on both counts…The result was the formation in 1998 of the Dye Track Committee that today includes motion picture distributors, exhibitors, film stock manufacturers and film laboratories, all dedicated to replacing silver-applicated analog 35mm soundtracks with pure cyan-dye tracks. That year also saw the beginning of extensive testing, spearheaded by Dolby, Kodak, Fuji, Agfa, Technicolor and Deluxe.

Neeson Cripps Academy

In a past blog post, I discussed the amazing work the Cambodian Children’s Fund does to support students and families.  In February, they opened the Neeson Cripps Academy, which will focus on STEM education.

From their website:

The five-storey NCA hosts 400 students, 30 teachers, 15 classrooms, 4 teacher workrooms, 2 international standard science labs, 2 computer labs, an art studio, a gallery space, a teacher training hub, e-learning facilities, a rooftop garden and a sports court. All are designed to work together to create a new generation of multi-skilled and fully rounded students.

This building complex was built on a former garbage site, where many of the children earned pennies a day sorting through trash.  Thanks to organizations like the Cambodian Children’s Fund, those children are now in school and planning to make positive impacts on their communities and the world.  Many plan to continue their education at the university level.

IMG_1647.JPGPhoto: Royal University,  Leng Len, Wikipedia

Religion and Conservation

cropped-img_1485.jpgNo matter what religion you practice or what your opinions are on religion, it is indesputable that millions around the world look up to religious leaders for guidance.  That is one reason it is crucial that more religious leaders speak out on behalf of conservation. Fortunately, more leaders are taking this approach, especially in Africa as they witness elephants and rhinos disappearing.  From the San Diego Tribune:

“Hamza Mutunu, a Muslim leader from Tanzania, argued for the animals.

“The general message is that taking care of the wildlife is part and parcel with our religion,” he said. “We have a duty from the Prophet Mohammed. … Taking care of wildlife is within our religion.”

Preetika Bhanderi, who is with the Hindu Council of Africa, said: ‘Hindu’s backbone is non-violence toward everything that has life. That means animals, and people, of course.’

Charles Odira, a Catholic priest from Kenya, said religious leaders can help spread the message effectively given the moral authority and standing they have in African communities.

‘Just as when we talk about Jesus Christ, when we say (from the pulpit) that animals are part of God’s community, an impact will be made,’ he said.”

Religious leaders are often the local educators, and the more they can raise awareness about conservation, the better.  Conservation is a moral issue, one that can easily be incorporated into religious teachings around the world.

Photo: street sign in Thailand


Maasai and Elephants

Elephant Aware Masai Mara concentrates on helping tribal groups live peacefully with elephants.  Too often conflict occurs due to shrinking resources and competition for land.

Teams of rangers have partnered with local schools to educate youth on the importance of elephants to their culture and to the environment.  Elephants, after all, are seed spreaders and many other species’ lives depend on them.  They tear down thorny bushes, creating grasslands.   With their digging, they create water holes.

The Maasai have long had a respectful relationship with elephants.  Yes, they have hunted them, but have traditionally done so for food.  When an elephant dies, the Maasai believe they will meet the elephant again upon their own death.

The Maasai are traditionally herders, but due to economic hardship many have lost the ability to have respectful relationships with elephants.  They have needed to change their land over to crops, which elephants easily destroy.  Months of hard labor can be fruitless if a herd of elephants trample through. The lure of poaching money has been great as well.

Groups like the IFAW have provided training for Maasai to become rangers instead.  So far, over thirty Maasai have successfully completed the program.  In addition, the IFAW has leased land from the Maasai in order to protect it from development.  The Maasai can then keep their traditional work as herders, and the herds can peacefully graze alongside the elephants as they did before.

video: IFAW, youtube








Book review

A little break from elephant news to share a book recommendation: “The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating” by Elisabeth Tova Bailey.  I got it at the library today and finished it already as I could not put it down.

Beautifully written, this little gem is about a woman who is ill and bed-ridden who begins to spend her days taking care of a snail – learning to appreciate the small creature’s complexity and company.

If you appreciate nature, you will likely find this book to be insightful and inspiring.