International Migratory Bird Day: Celebrate Some of Our Most Iconic Wildlife
By Richard Spener and Toni Armstrong
May 14 is International Migratory Bird Day, a chance to celebrate some of our most amazing and iconic birds and a reminder of the need to preserve the habitat that is critical to their survival.
The National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska in the western Arctic is the largest single unit of public land in the nation, spanning nearly 23 million acres across the North Slope of Alaska. It includes millions of acres of wilderness-quality lands with important habitat for brown bears, caribou, polar bears, walrus and, of course, migratory birds. Each year, birds from across the country and beyond travel to these Special Areas to nest and raise their young.
We've been fortunate enough to travel twice to the reserve, a land so remote and so wild that each trip has presented an entirely new experience. We had heard of the incredible birding at and around Teshekpuk Lake and we had to see for ourselves. It is the largest lake in Arctic Alaska and the third largest in the entire state.
We started our trip on a small creek, Keolok Creek, paddling north past hundreds of small lakes to our destination of Teshekpuk Lake. Minnesota might lay claim as the land of 10,000 lakes, but the region around Teshekpuk Lake could certainly challenge it in total quantity. The whole of the landscape is dotted by countless bodies of water, some no larger than ponds. And they are filled with life—during our two-week expedition, we found birds of every stripe in the surrounding wetlands. Each evening after dinner, in the warm light of the Arctic sun, we hiked to several lakes to watch the birds feed, preen and raise their chicks. It was a naturalist's paradise, a photographer's dream and a place we can't wait to revisit.
Birdwatching is a passion and not only for us, as according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, millions of Americans across the country see themselves as birders. And it is hard to overstate the importance of the reserve to America's birds and the pastime of birdwatching. Species that utilize all four flyways in North America, plus several international flyways, migrate to the reserve every year. Tundra swans from the Atlantic Flyway, white-fronted geese from the Mississippi Flyway, pintails from the Central Flyway and brant from the Pacific Flyway converge on this summer destination, just to name a few. Even shorebirds from as far away as Hawaii and New Zealand find their way north to the reserve.
A cradle of life, Teshekpuk Lake lies at the heart of one of the most productive and unique wetland complexes in the circumpolar Arctic. It has been recognized by the National Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area for shorebirds, as it hosts the Arctic's highest density of these birds. More than one dozen of Audubon's Alaska Watch List species nest, molt or rest near Teshekpuk Lake, including threatened spectacled eiders, king eiders, red-throated loons, dunlins and buff-breasted sandpipers.
The key now, as is the case so often with our public lands, is protecting them. That means protecting the reserve's Special Areas, five areas of exceptional wildlife value set aside for protection within the reserve, so that the wildlife that depends upon them can thrive. Climate change, of course, looms over the Arctic like a peregrine falcon circling its prey—Arctic permafrost is melting, growing seasons are changing, sea levels are rising, invasive species are spreading, all of which can have serious consequences for local and migratory wildlife alike.
And then there is the specter of development. ConocoPhillips is slowly but surely moving deeper into the reserve and its first two projects—referred to as Greater Mooses Tooth Units #1 and #2—would be built just a short distance away from the Teshekpuk Lake and Colville River Special Areas and the direct impacts of development on the land are easy to see. Airstrips. Drill pads. Pipelines. Gravel roads. And as development spreads across the landscape of the reserve, industrial noise will affect migration and nesting patterns, roads and pipelines will divide up ecosystems and available habitat already threatened by climate change will be lost.
The National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska is a hidden jewel in northwest Alaska. To preserve it, we need President Obama to continue to stand out front on the issue of climate change and to continue to work with the global community to address it. His administration needs to make sure that development in the reserve does not proceed until the highest scientific and environmental standards are met. This International Migratory Bird Day, let's all make a promise to protect the reserve and its globally important Special Areas for the birds and wildlife that depend on them.
Toni Armstrong and Richard Spener have been frequent visitors to Alaska and the Arctic, including two trips to the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, and five unguided trips to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. They both also serve on the board of directors of the Alaska Wilderness League. Toni and Richard reside in St. Louis, MO.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
In a dramatic rescue captured on camera, a Florida man ran into a pond and pried open an alligator's mouth in order to rescue his beloved puppy, all without dropping his cigar.
- 'He had green eyes': Florida man will paint alligator that attacked him ›
- Florida alligator attack: A woman was attacked by a 10-foot alligator ... ›
- Weird presidential pets include alligator, tiger cub, dog named Satan ... ›
- Alligators make terrible pets: 'You're basically dealing with a dinosaur.' ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
- Coronavirus Plastic Waste Polluting the Environment - EcoWatch ›
- Scuba Divers Make Face Masks out of Recycled Ocean Plastic ... ›
By Bret Wilkins
In a year in which the United States has already suffered 16 climate-driven extreme weather events causing more than $1 billion in economic damages, and as millions of American workers face loss of essential unemployment benefits due to congressional inaction, a report published Monday reveals the Trump administration has given fossil fuel companies as much as $15.2 billion in direct relief — and tens of billions more indirectly — through federal COVID-19 recovery programs since March.
- 'We Need People's Bailout, Not Polluters' Bailout': Climate Groups ... ›
- Corporate Polluters Have Received Tens of Millions in PPP Loans ... ›
- Trump Bails Out Oil Industry, Not U.S. Families, as Coronavirus ... ›
- Former Federal Reserve Governor Rebukes Fed for Fossil Fuel Bail ... ›
By Ashia Aubourg
As Thanksgiving approaches, some Indigenous organizations and activists caution against perpetuating further injustices towards Native communities. Indigenous activist Mariah Gladstone, for example, encourages eaters to celebrate the harvest time in ways that do not involve stereotypes and pilgrim stories.
- Why Face Masks Belong at Your Thanksgiving Gathering + 7 Things ... ›
- Reasons to Be Thankful — 8 Food and Farm 'Good News' Stories ... ›
- Why I'm Going to Standing Rock for Thanksgiving - EcoWatch ›
By Alex Middleton
Losing weight and reducing fat is a hard battle to fight. Thankfully, there are fat burner supplements that help you gain your target body and goal. However, how would you know which supplement is right for you?