Archive for the ‘Mother nature’ category

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.

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Er, Um, What He meant to say was…

June 27, 2008

I’m just bursting at the seams with anticipation of more and better evidence that Mars may have actually supported life at sometime in its past.

Nasa scientists are “flabbergasted” at the current results from the probe which has found not only evidence of water (ice) but the soil contains the necessary ingredients to support plant growth.

“It is the type of soil you would probably have in your back yard, you know, alkaline. You might be able to grow asparagus in it really well. … It is very exciting for us.”

As I write this, the scholars and propogandists at the Vatican are busy as little bees trying to rewrite reinterpret the scriptures (in which God never mentions any other planets at all, let alone life on them) to cover their holy arses.

“Let’s see…we can say that a Bible day can really mean years and the Bible Earth can really mean the whole universe! Yeah, that’s it! that’s the ticket! That’s our story and we’re stickin’ to it.”

It is a time of almost orgasmic joy and glee because I may actually see the truth be told, once and for all, in my lifetime.

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.

Singapore Trek – Kusu Island

June 21, 2008

Yawn, it was just another day on a lush tropical island in the South China Sea. Ho hum. 🙂

Kusu island is a very small, but beautiful island just south of Singapore. Two fellow teachers and myself took 20 of our foreign students on this trek to celebrate their last day of school. No one lives on Kusu, it is strickly for visitors and there are very few of those. Besides ourselves, there were only one or two couples along.

I especially enjoy getting close to the huge ships that sail into Singapore harbor to load and unload their cargos and Kusu sits right in the middle of the shipping lanes. There are no stores although cold drinks can be purchased at the Buddhist temple that is there.

Because I found out too late that someone had removed the memory card from my digital camera, I had to take these shots with my phone. The quality sucks but you’ll get the idea. So let’s take a look at Kusu.

On the way to Kusu the ferry makes a stop at St. Johns Island (above). It is also for day use only but does include more jungle area.

One of the many cargo ships coming into port. At any given time, you can easily count 100 ships within view.

Despite the shipping, the water is a clear, clean bluish green and very warm. Lagoons have been created for swimming but one must be mindful of the jellyfish.

As we approached the dock at Kusu, other, smaller transports were just leaving.

A small but friendly staff greeted us upon arrival at about 11am. They did caution us that the return ferries only left at noon and 4pm. I don’t know what happens if you miss the last boat.

There are several varieties of unusual flora on the island. This unusual palm is native. You can see part of the temple in the background.

The island is dotted with small covered picnic huts. It rains often and the sun is hot, so these are very useful. They also offer protection from the lightning which is very common.

Kusu is a turtle and tortoise preserve. Close to shore, you can also spot very large sea turtles gliding around near the surface. These are some of the students from China and Vietnam.

We parked ourselves in one of the huts on this lagoon. Some of the students went exploring on the breakwater where they found sea snails, jellyfish and a large crab of some kind. They tried to feed it watermelon but it was more interested in getting a grip on someone’s fingers.

The rest of us broke out the food which was plentiful.

A couple of the more adventurous boys found a small raft and brought it to shore to offer rides. Eventually, and predictably, it capsized which proved to be embarrassing for the normally ultra modest girls. They had worn thin, white blouses and when they got soaked, well, you get the point.

Here’s a couple of short vids of the kids having fun.

This will give you an idea of how close by the ships are. These two were just outside the breakwater of the lagoon.

The students had a great time. Most of them will be returning to their home countries to pursue further studies. They’re a great group and I’m gonna miss them.

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.