Archive for the ‘Environment’ category

America nears – The End

September 20, 2008

With sadness and relish, I await it.

Bush craps on the environment – again

August 13, 2008

In just one more move to solidify the ultra conservative, drill anywhere, environment be damned agenda of the oil companies, Bush is proposing a massive change to the way animals and plants qualify for Endangered Species status. Wapo reports,

…under current law, agencies must subject any plans that potentially affect endangered animals and plants to an independent review by the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service. Under the proposed new rules, dam and highway construction and other federal projects could proceed without delay if the agency in charge decides they would not harm vulnerable species.

In otherwords, the critical oversight process, which for three decades has been used to determine the protection status of potentially endangered species, would be eliminated. Instead, individual federal agencies would determine whether protected species would be imperiled by agency projects.

Sounds kinda like how the Department of Indian Affairs protected the Native Americans.

This is your Department of the Interior at work. If this policy is allowed, you can kiss all of the animals and plants that are currently on the protected list goodbye. Get out there and take photos and videos of them because your grandchildren will never see the real thing.

Just one more thing to worry about

June 27, 2008

Being the gluttonous and greedy consumers of everything luxurious that we are, it took a press release from Haagen Dazs Ice Cream to bring this potential disaster to the news media. I’m talking about what that company and others are calling the shocking and dangerous decline of honey bees.

Honey bees mysteriously began to abandon their colonies in 2006, destroying about a third of U.S. hives. The rate of decline is accelerating, reaching 36 percent last winter.

90% of plant life on our planet depends on pollination for survival and honey bees are the single biggest vehicle to make that happen. Bumble bees, moths, butterflies and even bats also contribute to the process and are also declining in astounding numbers. But as the honey bees disappear and fields begin to disappear with them, food prices are expected to soar.

Fruits, nuts, seeds and many vegetables are the foundation of California’s $34 billion agricultural industry, the nation’s largest, and the basis of a healthy human diet. About a third of human food requires pollination. The plants cannot grow without it.

While scientists have not yet proven the reasons for the problem, research so far has shown what one might expect. Reduced habitat and pesticides, even non-lethal pesticides seem to be the culprits.

…one study of 108 pollen samples revealed 46 pesticides, as many as 17 different pesticides in a single sample. Only three of the samples showed no pesticide residue.

There are 660,000 acres of just almond trees in California’s San Joaquin Valley and this massive area of a single crop is also making the situation worse. Seems that the bees, etc. need a more diverse diet to keep them around.

Visalia beekeeper Steve Godlin said 1.3 million honeybee hives are trucked in each spring from around the country to pollinate the California almond crop, which is fast replacing cotton in the Valley. The collapse of honeybee hives and the enormous demand for almond pollination has sent its price soaring.

Surveys have shown that half of the American people aren’t even aware that there is a problem. No surprise there. It’s not exactly a sexy news story. But it’s a real threat to farmers and ultimately to consumers. While comparatively rich Americans will be able to absorb the rising prices, at least in the short term, poorer nations that depend on California and other areas for their fresh fruits and vegetables may be priced right out of the market. Read the whole article for some tips on what you can do to help.

Lions being intentionally poisoned in Kenya

June 19, 2008

Just watched this disturbing video offered up by the BBC. A pesticide, Carbofuron, is being used in Kenya to kill predetory animals like lions and other big cats.  In some cases, carcasses are being seeded with the deadly chemical in order to poison the animals that will feed upon it. It has now gotten into the ecosystem and has killed animals that graze as well.

This is being done to protect cows and other livestock. But it begs the question, is this the only damn way to do it? Do we have to poison already endangered animals?

Trekkin’ in Singapore – The Steel Bridge

May 21, 2008

Yesterday I visited Singapore’s newest trekking attraction, the steel bridge. This magnificent pathway winds its way through a jungle area in the south central part of the island. With its switchback layout, it can even accommodate wheelchairs.

So come along, let’s check it out. (click to enlarge. I have left some pics larger than others)

There are several places to access the bridge. We started at one end at Hort Park, a beautiful garden area that displays all of the flora species to be found in Singapore.

The garden path is natural and signs describe the different types.

This tree had some lovely, soft green moss hanging from its branches.

Some plants are displayed vertically.

I had to get a shot of this old ‘uncle’ who was ever so gently and one at a time sweeping, not raking, the flower petals that had fallen from a garden atop this wall.

From Hort Park we will enter the bridge and cross the expressway here. In the distance, you can see where the pathway enters the forest.

It is only a matter of steps between the city streets and the dense, tropical jungle.

Here you can see how the bridge winds through the forest. This area is just under 2ndary canopy level.

The switchbacks are very gently sloped which allows even the old folks to be able to enjoy this beautiful walk with little effort. Here you actually see 4 levels as I am taking the picture from one higher than these 3.

There are a few stairways for quick access to different areas of the bridge.

In this area the bridge is higher and you can see a ground level path crossing underneath. The jungle is very thick and open areas like this are rare.

This is not a tree but a web of vines that have completely blanketed a group of trees. Vines are very fast growing and are everywhere.

This tree appeared to be sprouting branches in clusters but only from the very top of each branch. However, its not uncommon for completely different plants to grow out of the trees here, so these sprouts may not be part of the tree at all.

This shot gives a good idea of the canopy levels and density of the forest. By the way, there are monkeys here but we didn’t spot any on this trek.

The upper canopy towers over the 2ndary canopy. To give you an idea of how high the upper canopy gets, a 40′ tree in the 2ndary canopy is considered moderately tall.

As the plants get lower to the ground, the leaves tend to get bigger in order to capture as much sunlight as possible. Leaves on some of the ground level plants are as big as me.

Like a similar plant in my McRitchie post, this one looks as if someone has cut off the end of each leaf. Not the case, of course.

This marvelous specimen is Ficus Benjamina (also called Ficus Benjaminus) or the Benjamin Tree. Besides the obvious vines, there are a number of other plant species growing out of this tree.

This shows the thickness of the ground cover. Its way to thick to hike through and since you can’t see what you’re stepping on, I wouldn’t want to anyway.

Past the end of the steel bridge and a short walk away, we come upon a nice wooden walkway. I’ve never seen anything like it.

The wave shaped edge you see here and below is designed with water blue lighting which, when lit at night, appears as a giant rolling blue wave coming out of the jungle. It’s quite remarkable.

All in all, just another day in paradise. It’s so nice to live in a place where the signs don’t say Warning: Beware of Dog but instead say Please Don’t Feed the Monkeys.

Trekkin’ in Singapore – McRitchie

May 17, 2008

I’ve been too busy to post the pictures of my trip to McRitchie last weekend, until now. McRitchie is a water catchment area surrounded by tropical forest and is amazingly beautiful. Nice walking paths are cut through the jungle as it is so dense, that to go “offroad” is nearly impossible. At least without a machete. We only went in for about 3 miles but next week we are planning to trek to the Treetop Bridge and thats about a 10 mile hike.

Anyway, here’s some shots from last weeks trip. Click to enlarge.

The entrance to the hiking trail area is clean and beautiful.

The jungle path is just around the next bend.

The Jungle is dense, even at the very beginning of the trail.

The vines are everywhere but hard and rigid. Not the Tarzan swinging variety.

The sun’s rays peek through the canopy to light the way.

As the jungle gets more dense, the trail becomes almost a tunnel and the mid and upper canopy virtually block out the sun. In the distance, you can see that tunnel entrance.

These leaves fall from the high canopy. They are huge and shaped like maple leaves. We had to use the flash here because of the darkness.

This plant is very large and quite common. It looks as if someone has cut off the ends of the leaves but it is the natural shape. Leaves are about 3′ long and 1′ wide.

The lake is crystal clear and looks like a mirror it is so calm.

A good view of the different canopy layers. The monkeys typically hand out in the mid to high canopy.

I left this picture larger because its a very nice one to use as desktop wallpaper. Try it.

Pearl is a much better photographer than I am. She captured these two monkeys sunning themselves in the trees.

This one looks like its out of a book! Great shot.

We ran across this on our way out, two macaques doing the nasty.

They got shy and climbed the fence to reach a more secluded area. But excitment got the best of them and they had to stop for a quickie on the way over.

Safely over the fence, they went for it with a passion.

Singapore and the surrounding area offers many beautiful and natural places of interest. The tropical climate and absence of air pollution make the scenery magnificent.

A Sunday Trek in Singapore

May 6, 2008

As small as this island is, there are many nice places to go exploring and hiking. Dense rain forest still covers most of the center of the island and surrounds the natural reservoirs that stay full due to the abundance of rain. So with lunch and plenty of water in our backpacks, Pearl and I mounted up on the Honda 200 and set out to see a few sites and maybe meet a few new friends along the way. (click to enlarge)

We started out at Pierce reservoir, a beautiful, quiet and serene area known for it’s crystal clear water and wildlife. Signs along the narrow road leading into the area warn against feeding the monkeys or even letting them see that you might have food. They can be very aggressive.

The modern meets the primitive in the backgound of this shot showing a golf course butting up to the jungle. And this is not a “man made” or even visitor friendly jungle. There are few if any trails and much of it is impenetrable without a machete. On the near side however, is a nice little park where one might net a few shrimp or catch a few fish. The lake is also teeming with turtles.

Along the road I came across this not so friendly male macaque. He bared his teeth at me so I kept my distance. There are thousands of these in the thick trees and they usually hang around in family groups of as many as 20. A few more of this guy’s brood were sunning and grooming across the road. Unfortunately, some end up as road kill.

We stopped for a bite, looking for a shady spot in the grass but found it full of very large, very nasty looking black ants. We also spotted this monitor scrounging in the grass for a meal. He was about16 inches and a little weary of this old man.

Later, on our way out of the park, we found his big brother, right out in the open, digging in the grass for his own lunch. He allowed me to get within a few feet before sauntering up the hill. He climbs much better than I do.

Pearl was startled when she almost stepped on this little guy. But he got away clean before we could do him any harm.

From Pierce we drove over to East Coast park. This is a long stretch of beach that extends for several kilometers along the southeast coast of the island. It is from here that you can watch the hundreds of ships that line up each day to come into port. Unfortunately, the air was a little misty so they are hard to see.

This is also an ideal spot for windsurfing and they have a launch area and even lessons for newbies. You can rent boards or bring your own.

After a tough day fighting the snakes and the monitors and fending off the monkeys, we were famished and so we stopped for a little of Singapore’s famous Steamboat. Here you pay for a plate and its all you can eat. You select meats, veges, fish and whatever else they have from long counters of raw food. Each table has a round platter with a bowl in the middle. Its all over an open fire and you simply boil or cook what you want right at your table. Nice way to end the day.