Category Archives: Nature

Saturday “Biodiversity” Smörgåsbord


2010 was is the International Year of Biodiversity. The IYB is meant to help raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity, which goes beyond “I want my children to enjoy it” or “Any species could hold the cure for cancer and thus should be preserved”: biodiversity allows ecosystems to recover more easily from disaster, contributes to climate stability, … . Who wants to read more about it, can get more information here and here.
News on the disappearance of the tiger, of many fish species, … reaches us everyday, and draws a grim picture of the way our planet is headed. However, there áre positive stories of conservation and reintroduction, that show that not only are we capable of wiping entire species from the Earth’s surface: if we put our minds to it, we can take responsibility, reverse the consequences of our actions and book success, giving back other species the space they deserve.


Image via Wired Science

Fifteen years ago, America’s last eastern panther population had shrunk to several dozen individuals, riddled with genetic defects and too inbred to survive much longer. In a conservation attempt, 8 females from Texas were introduced to the population, with success: the panther’s population has tripled, and the occurrence of genetic defects is now reduced. In order for the success to continue, additional translocations will be necessary, and the population (and the habitat … ) needs to expand further, but the future is sure is looking a lot brighter for the Florida Panther. (via Wired Science)

Image via De Morgen

The Wild Coffee Forests of Kafa (does “Arabica” ring a bell?) in Ethiopia have been recognized as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The former kingdom of Kafa, 475km southwest of Addis Abeba, holds more than half of the rainforest left in Ethiopia, and harbors a wealth of animal and plant species. As in many countries, the forest was cut on a large scale for decades, to make room for farm land, and for the production of charcoal and building materials. Fortunately however, this has changed, and with the help of Farm Africa, the local farmers have learned to grow coffee, fruit, … indigenous to the region which are less vulnerable than the crop plants they grew before. In addition, they can harvest honey, herbs, … in specified regions in the reserve. The new approach has been a success for both the farmers and the wildlife preservation, and resulted in the UNESCO recognition – a sure sign they are on the right track. (via De Morgen)

Image via US Forest Service

Crawford Path, one of the oldest and most popular recreation hiking trails in the US, used to be home to more than 95 percent of the world’s Robbins’ cinquefoil (Potentilla robbinsiana), concentrated on just one acre of land. However, as popularity with the backpackers increased, the number of Robbins’ cinquefoil decreased accordingly, until the flower teetered on the brink of extinction. A recovery plan was issued, and in a conservation effort that took over 20 years, the plant was gradually reintroduced to the area, until it could be taken off of the list of endangered species some years back – the ultimate measure of success. Follow-up studies now show that the established population has remained stable and healthy, and the beautiful yellow flowers can now be found blooming again on the mountain slopes. (via US Forest Service)

The story of the Iberian Lynx is not a success-story (yet), but it may very well become one, and a very remarkable one at that. One major threat of biodiversity is the introduction of new species, which can easily destabilize a whole ecosystem: viruses previously unknown can do unseen damage to indigenous species who never had the chance to build resistance, new predators can virtually kill an entire species – the list of human-introduced invasive species is impressive. However, climate change may cause this type of invasion part of the strategy to save entire species. While this sounds contradictory, it may prove to be useless to preserve a species in its “natural” habitat, as that habitat changes and becomes unlivable for the “saved” animal. Other regions, on the other hand, may develop to be a more suitable habitat than the “historical” one. However, the widespread occurrence of one particular species (i.e. Homo sapiens) may strongly inhibit the animals to reach the new Promised Land. So why not help them a hand? It is called assisted migration and seems highly interesting, albeit controversial. But who knows, it may be the preservation technique of the future (and is certainly easier to do than genetically manipulate to species to adapt to its changed environment). (via Oregon Expat)

There is much more that could be done – that should be done, even, and it is highly unlikely we will be able to stop the rapid extinction of species any time soon, but the above stories show that it is possible, and that, in and of itself, opens possibilities. Who wants more positive stories may find some on the site of the Nature Conservancy, or just keeps an eye on his/her local journal: positive stories are everywhere, you just have to want to find them.

Saturday “Beautiful” Smörgåsbord


The midnight sun as captured by Isilmetriel, via Oregon Expat.

The Aurora Borealis as captured by the AuroraMAX webcam in Northern Canada, via Wired Science.

A macro image of a fly drinking from a dew drop by Radoslav Radoslavov Valkov, winner of the Young Environmental Photographer of the Year 2010, via Oregon Expat.

Waterdrops acting as a refracting lens for the flower in the background by Steve Wall, via Smashing Magazine.

Saturday “loo” Smörgåsbord


This weeks Smörgåsbord was intended to be on clever waste-reducing solutions with a wink – curiously, they all seem to be related to bathroom visits. Whether this reflects a bias in my searching abilities or rather an unexplicable bathroom-love of the developers, I do not know.

Conceptual artist Matthew Mazzotta is the man behind the Park Spark Project in Cambridge, Massachusetts (I never knew there even was an American Cambridge!) in which dog poop is used to power an “eternal flame” monument. This shows how “going green” can be interpreted not only in terms of drastically changing the way we live or relying on scientists to develop better, renewable sources of energy, but also in terms of simply changing perspective and questioning the role and possibilities of technology, both old and new, in our lives. In a later stage, Mazzotta wants to involve the community to gather ideas as how to best use the flame – currently proposals range from a shadow-projection box or a popcorn stand to a teahouse. (image: Park Spark Project ; via Wired Science)

And while we’re at poop, do you also feel a sting of guilt when using more than 3 squares per sitting ever since Sheryl Crow proposed a ban on this anti-environmental behavior? Well, feel guilty no more, here is the White Goat from the Japanese company Oriental which converts used office paper to rolls of toilet paper! Every roll takes about 40 shredded A4 sheets and 30 minutes to make, saving an estimated 60 cedar trees annually. The machine went on sale last summer, but at $100 000 a piece I wonder how many they actually sold … . A video of the machine in action can be found here. (image and idea via Geekology)

Besides tons of toilet paper, bathroom visitors also use liters of water washing their hands afterwards. Now, we wouldn’t want to be responsible for a decline in hygiene by putting a ban on handwashing, but to encourage people to think about how much water they actually use Yan Li, a Chinese designer/engineer, has devised this Poor Little Fish basin. While using, the level of water in the bowl gradually falls, threatening the fish with untimely death; it will go back to the original level once the water stops running. Of course, the water doesn’t really come out of the fishbowl and the fish is never in any real danger – I fear otherwise some people would actually want to kill the little swimmer. (image and idea via Geekology)

Another clever solution for reduction of water consumption during toilet visits is this award-winning two-in-one sink and urinal designed by South Korean Yeongwoo Kim (anybody else feeling an Asian constant through these stories?). The Eco Urinal is designed to use the water that was used for washing hands to flush the urine. Thus 1) the water is used twice, reducing overall consumption, 2) less space is needed, and 3) people are encouraged to “keep their sanitation”. I actually wonder which of these will be the prime reason for success. (Image and idea via Geekology)

NOTE: If you are reading this on the day it was posted, shame on you! Today is Offlining day, which invites people to switch off and enjoy a day offline (more info at the link). In my defense all I can say is I thought it was tomorrow… I must have confused with Talk like a Pirate-day

Falling leaves


I’ve noticed something this morning. They must have been there for a while, but I never even saw them – maybe I was still too occupied with other things (like, where did I take a wrong turn cause I’m not quite sure where I am now), or maybe I was distracted by the beautiful weather we’ve had these past few days. Either way, they only caught my eye now.

Brown leaves on the pavement.

Discolored edges appearing at the leaves still clinging onto the trees.

Autumn is creeping in.

It’s in sharp contrast with the excitement I felt (and still feel) when looking at my little plants and herbs in the windowsill who bring me so much happiness just by being alive. I’ve been so full of wonder watching them grow and change from day-to-day, that I just didn’t think of the fact that actually, growing season is over. It is September. How did it come to be September so soon? I was writing up my PhD only weeks ago (that was February), had my defense recently (early June) and started my new job, like what, yesterday? (2 and a half weeks ago)

But besides the fact that the falling leaves indicate the end of summer with its warm, sunshiny days and reminds us of how quickly time goes by – too quickly – I’m simply no big fan of autumn. It makes for beautiful pictures, I agree, and I do like a decent autumnstroll in the woods from time to time, kicking the leaves as you go. But I simply cannot relate to the many lyrical posts on this particular season, celebrating the circle of life which has once again been completed, the beauty of the colored leaves, … . My guess is that I have enough melancholy of my own, not needing a whole season that is so full of it. That and the fact that I find it horrific having to watch so many things die so slowly. Can’t they just have it over and done with?

No, I’m not an autumn person.

On the other hand – Autumn forebodes the coming of Winter. And Winter is generally accompanied by Snow. And Snow, my dear people, Snow is one of my dearest friends.

So hurray for Autumn!

PS – I’ll be off to Belgium for the weekend (leaving on Thursday), so it’ll be nice and quiet around here for a few days. Enjoy the silence!