Posts Tagged ‘nature’

Finalists Announced for First-Ever Nature Inspiration Awards from Canadian Museum of Nature: Ceremony on November 5 …

OTTAWA, ONTARIO–(Marketwired – Sep 17, 2014) – The Canadian Museum of Nature, Canada’s national museum of natural history and natural sciences, is pleased to announce the finalists for the first annual Nature Inspiration Awards. These awards recognize individuals, groups and organizations whose leadership, innovation and creativity connect Canadians with nature and the natural world.

The finalists in each category, and the announcement of winners, will be celebrated at a gala to take place November 5, 2014 at the historic museum in downtown Ottawa. Some of the finalists use art, blogs, films and presentations to tell stories and engage others. Some deliver ecological and educational programs. Others administer projects that empower urban youth, schoolchildren, families, and adults to learn more about biodiversity, nature and the environment.

“It was truly inspiring to see the scope of projects from across Canada that was submitted for this first-ever edition of the awards,” says Meg Beckel, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Nature and Chair of the selection jury. “The finalists represent an amazing cross-section of people and organizations that are committed to encouraging a healthy and creative engagement with the natural world. We are grateful for the opportunity to recognize their achievements.”

A call for submissions in spring 2014 resulted in 34 nominations/applications, which the selection jury whittled down to the shortlist. In addition to Meg Beckel, the jury included Shelley Ambrose, Executive Director/Co-Publisher, The Walrus; Jack Cockwell, Chairman/CEO, Partners Limited; Philip Crawley, Publisher, Globe and Mail; Kathleen Edwards, musician/songwriter; John Geiger, CEO, Royal Canadian Geographic Society; Geoff Green, Executive Director, Students on Ice; Mary Simon, Chairperson of the National Committee on Inuit Education; and Kristine Webber, Vice-Chair, Bateman Foundation.

The categories for the the 2014 awards are: Youth (aged 17 and younger), Individuals (aged 18 and up), Not-for-Profits (small to medium), and Not-for-Profits (large). A Corporate category recognizes Cascades Inc. for 50 years as a leader for the recycling of paper products in Canada. Winners for each category receive $5,000 that they can designate to a program of their choice.

The Nature Inspiration Awards are produced by the Canadian Museum of Nature. The museum thanks media sponsors The Walrus and the Globe and Mail for their support.

Here is the complete list of finalists:

Youth category (aged 17 and under)

  • Hannah Alper, eco-blogger, Richmond Hill, Ontario
  • Miranda Andersen, environmental filmmaker, Belcarra, British Columbia
  • Olivia Clement, polar bear advocate, Ottawa
  • Alana Krug-Macleod, environmental advocate, Saskatoon

Individual category (aged 18 and up)

  • Christian Artuso, Manitoba Program Manager for Bird Studies Canada, Winnipeg
  • David Katz, CEO of PlasticBank, Vancouver
  • Charmaine Lurch, artist/arts educator, Toronto
  • Mylène Paquette, rower/ocean adventurer, Montreal

Not-For-Profit category (small/medium organization)

  • Environnement Jeunesse, Montreal
  • Evergreen Brick Works, Toronto
  • Power To Be, Victoria/Vancouver
  • Tree Canada, Ottawa

Not-For-Profit category (large organization)

  • Calgary Zoo, Centre for Conservation Research, Calgary
  • Earth Rangers, Markham, Ontario
  • Royal Ontario Museum Bioblitz, Toronto
  • Vancouver Aquarium, Vancouver


  • Cascades Inc., Kingsley Falls, Quebec

About the Canadian Museum of Nature

The Canadian Museum of Nature is Canada’s national museum of natural history and natural sciences. The museum provides evidence-based insights, inspiring experiences and meaningful engagement with nature’s past, present and future. It achieves this through scientific research, a 10.5 million specimen collection, education programs, signature and travelling exhibitions, and a dynamic web site,

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Cheap Green Energy Possible with Hydrogen Breakthrough

It’s no secret that the world’s dependence on fossil fuels and other types of finite energy are increasingly devastating our planet and speeding up climate change. But new research may offer a glimmer of hope, as a new hydrogen breakthrough could usher in a generation of cheap, green energy.

Scientists from the University of Glasgow have come up with a new form of hydrogen production that is 30 times faster than the current state-of-the-art method. What’s more, the breakthrough also offers a solution to some common problems associated with generating electricity from renewable sources such as solar, wind or wave energy.

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“Around 95 percent of the world’s hydrogen supply is currently obtained from fossil fuels, a finite resource which we know harms the environment and speeds climate change,” lead researcher Lee Cronin from the university’s School of Chemistry, said in a statement.

“The potential for reliable hydrogen production from renewable sources is huge.”

Hydrogen is produced relatively easily using a process called electrolysis, which involves using electricity to break the bonds between water’s hydrogen and oxygen components and releasing them as gas. Unlike fossil fuels, this hydrogen gas can then be burned without any subsequent harmful effects on the environment.

While the process itself is eco-friendly, the means of powering electrolysis is not. Currently, industrial production of hydrogen relies overwhelmingly on fossil fuels.

But there is also a more advanced method of generating hydrogen using renewable power called proton exchange membrane electrolysers (PEMEs). However, PEMEs can be unreliable since they require precious metal catalysts to be held in high-pressure containers and subjected to high densities of electric current, which can be difficult to achieve from fluctuating renewable sources.

The new method can produce vast amounts of hydrogen at atmospheric pressure using lower power loads, typical of those generated by renewable power sources.

“The process uses a liquid that allows the hydrogen to be locked up in a liquid-based inorganic fuel. By using a liquid sponge known as a redox mediator that can soak up electrons and acid we’ve been able to create a system where hydrogen can be produced in a separate chamber without any additional energy input after the electrolysis of water takes place,” Cronin explained.

This allows “hydrogen to be released from the water 30 times faster than the leading PEME process on a per-milligram-of-catalyst basis,” he added.

The research was published in the journal Science.

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Plans to help Welsh nature thrive

Forest visitor centre enjoys rebirth

14 Jul 2014 — An award-winning forest visitor centre has enjoyed a rebirth since being devastated by the spread of a disease which affects larch trees. Some 12,000 native trees including sessile oak, rowan, birch, field maple, wild…

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The flawed nature of the International Whaling Commission’s science

As a body established to look at a scientific approach to whaling, the International Whaling Commission’s scientific credibility is sorely lacking.

WHAT A MERRY DAY it was for Australia. Back in March, I stayed up late, watching on the Internet as an angular Slovakian judge in dark robes read out the International Court of Justice’s finding that Japan’s whaling program was not ‘scientific’, as they had always claimed.

Australians were jubilant. Japan has described Australians as regarding whales as “sacred”; by the reaction, it seemed they were right. Australians celebrated as they thought the annual Japanese whale hunt in Antarctic waters was finally over. Australia had taken Japan to court and won.

As Professor Steven Freeland noted at the time, options remained for Japan should they choose to go back to Antarctica. As we head into this week’s International Whaling Commission meeting, it seems they are going ahead with the option to revise their scientific program of whaling to make it more genuinely scientific.

The International Whaling Commission has always been a controversial organisation. It came into being in the 1940s when it was recognised that whales were becoming increasingly scarce. The idea was that international agreement would be reached on catch limits in order to allow whale numbers to recover. Then whaling could be conducted into the future on a sustainable basis.

Science has therefore always been integral to the Commission.

But as with any international organisation, so is politics.

In 1982 the IWC voted for a moratorium on whaling. Despite the objections of some IWC members, it came into force in 1986. In 1979 and 1994, the IWC nations voted to establish whale sanctuaries near Antarctica.

Gradually, as anti-whaling nations joined the IWC and started voting, it has come to be seen as a whale protection organisation, rather than a whaling regulation organisation.

But it’s worth remembering that this was not the IWC’s original purpose.

It’s also worth remembering that the IWC is a voluntary organisation. Japan got around the moratorium on whaling in Antarctica by simply registering a formal objection to the sanctuary, and describing its whaling as ‘scientific’.

In the past, nations have withdrawn from the IWC. Some even started their own rival whaling organisations.

This weakness of the IWC’s constitution has always made for controversy. And there have been many calls over the years for the IWC’s powers to be strengthened.

Nick Gales and colleagues’ recent paper in Science is no exception (pdf). Reflecting on the International Court of Justice ruling, Dr Gales from the Australian Antarctic Division, argues that the IWC’s scientific committee needs overhauling.

At the moment, the IWC doesn’t approve a ‘scientific’ program of whaling, whether from Japan or anyone else. The scientific committee simply reviews the proposal and makes recommendations. The whaling country can choose to ignore them, as Japan did in the case of its JARPA II whaling program.

Gales argues that the scientific review committee should have the power to make changes to a whaling proposal, and it should be independent of the country proposing to hunt whales.

“The burden of proof on the validity of a scientific proposal properly resides with the proponent, who should sit outside the review process,” they write.

The scientific goals of the whaling proposal should be crystal clear, they say.

Japan dismissed criticism of its JARPA II whaling program as being politically motivated by the anti-whaling members of the IWC. While that might be true, the ruling of the International Court of Justice is makes a mockery of the credibility of the International Whaling Commission review process. Why review something that they have no power to change?

Japan’s motivations for whaling remain political. It keeps whaling not for reasons of tradition, or food, or science, or even national pride. It hunts whales because it is an island nation with limited natural resources of its own.

To back down to international pressure on whaling would be a slippery slope for a nation that needs the ocean. Japan is simply playing an international strategic game so that it can have access to the high seas when it needs to.

But unless the IWC’s scientific credibility is strengthened, it remains at the mercy of the political whims of the day.

As an organisation that was established to install a scientific approach to whaling, the IWC risks increasing irrelevance if it misses this opportunity to bolster its scientific credentials in the light of the ICJ ruling.

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Environment versus development: the problem with eco-tourism

If only there was perfect equilibrium between profit, people and the environment. But there isn’t – and protecting the environment counts on eco-tourism embracing community participation.

If you’ve ever looked at a pristine piece of land in full bloom in spring and yearned to return to it year after year, you know how deep the nature bug can bite. But chances are some developer will come along and build something on the land, erasing forever the pleasures it once held. The dream scenario would be if there were a perfect equilibrium between the environment, people and profit. But life’s not like that and South Africa faces tough choices ahead.

Land reform and eco-tourism

It’s now accepted that land reform in this country hasn’t worked well and communities remain impoverished despite the potential of their assets. What makes the issue even more urgent is perhaps best highlighted by land claims at iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a World Heritage Site. Claimants have identified over 70 percent of the park as belonging to them, indicating the scope of the problem. Many of those claiming ownership no longer live on the land – they had to make way for developments, including commercial and conservation ones. Even as this iconic piece of land continues to embody many of the contesting uses for land, the issue of those living within the Dukuduku Forest has been well documented.

It’s one of the longest-running land claims sagas. The ‘squatters’ have fought against efforts to evict them, saying the land belongs to their ancestors and insisting on their rights to live off the forest as hunters and gatherers. The declaration of this area as a World Heritage Site has merely served to reinforce the need to resolve the matter of how best to use the land.

It’s clear that no other industry highlights the environment versus development tension quite like eco-tourism. This is especially true because nature was very generous when endowing South Africa with such a richly diverse natural habitat and resource base. And at a time when it’s clear that mineral resources are finite, it becomes even more apparent why eco-tourism holds the key to South Africa’s future. But it’s also abundantly obvious why it can’t be business as usual: conservation cannot succeed if it doesn’t benefit those who live next to resources. When community members turn to poaching or pillaging prized timber for firewood so that they can eke out a living, it shows a failed model for sustainable development. It makes no sense for any entrepreneur to develop world-class facilities that attract rich tourists if neighbouring communities don’t have a stake in the success of the enterprise. Sadly, many entrepreneurs regard this as a kind of grudge purchase and don’t embrace it.

(Read: Hunting and eco-tourism in the Pafuri/Makuleke concession)

Local communities should be seen as an essential part of any truly sustainable nature-based business, rather than as a problem. South Africans are well known for working things out, so it’s a little surprising for many to see how much still has to be done to find what could be considered a win-win between the environment and development lobbies. One doesn’t need to be a cynic to see that where profit is involved, it becomes tricky to simply talk of meaningful community participation as the magic wand to solve the tensions between the two sides.

Then there’s another issue: in practice, there is nothing like a homogenous community. Often community members have their own interests and objectives, and smart entrepreneurs use these to neutralise the community and increase their own advantage. There are many stories where development agencies funded what on paper looked like solid community projects, only for these to fail or even be vandalised by the very community that was meant to own the assets. Dinokeng Big Five Game Reserve, for example, faced the threat of vandalism when it opened; fences were broken down and police were called in to protect the reserve.

The truth is that entrepreneurs want to make a profit, and they typically have the know-how and the resources to obtain returns on their investments. It takes exceptional negotiation skills to persuade them to share these returns with anyone else. As for communities, even when they own the land or have lodged a land claim, they’re often poorly organised and not able to participate as equal commercial partners. This means that when they strike deals, they often do so from a position of weakness.

There have been success stories (see below on how Namibia’s getting it right), especially when the partnerships between entrepreneurs and local communities are based on independent but mutually reinforcing interests. They ensure that each of the parties is invested in the relationship. One question that always needs answering is who benefits from any development – the answer gives a clue as to who suffers, as very few developments have no unintended victims.

Dr Ian Player is a great example of motivating opposing sides to buy into a single cause. He convinced the State to bring the private sector into conservation efforts at a time when the rhino population had fallen catastrophically low with the hope that private game reserves would breed rhinos and so grow the population. Looking back, it was a stroke of genius.

It’s time for our generation to create win-win scenarios like this. Those who advocate environmental protection policies that only make people poorer should ask themselves how sustainable their approach is – the challenge of our day is to engage millions of community members who currently don’t stand to benefit significantly from protecting the environment.

The tension between development and protecting the environment is only going to worsen. Poverty and a poorly protected environment go hand in hand. Whether it’s in urban shanties or rural communities, sustainable development can succeed only if the ordinary people believe their lives will be improved by caring for the environment.


Success story by Scott Ramsay

In the early 1990s, after the SA army had decimated much of the wildlife, the Namibian government granted communities legal rights to their traditional land, giving ownership of the remaining wildlife to people who were once poachers. The Ovambo, Kavango, Herero, Himba and Damara people could choose how best to make a sustainable living. Almost every community chose to conserve their wild animals.

In 1998, the first formal conservancy was registered. Today there are more than 79, covering about 20 percent of the country and creating more than 1000 permanent jobs. As John Kasaona, a community leader in conservation, said: ‘This is our new economy, an economy based on the respect for our natural resources.’

Conservancies and national parks now formally conserve almost half of Namibia, one of the highest figures in the world. Wildlife numbers have responded dramatically. After almost becoming extinct, the free-roaming black rhino population is the largest in Africa and Namibia has the only expanding population of wild lions, while numbers of the famous desert-adapted elephants have at least tripled.

This article first appeared in the September 2014 issue of Getaway Magazine.

This article, Environment versus development: the problem with eco-tourism, was originally posted on the Getaway Blog by Victor Dlamini.

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Fred Gehlbach: Wildlife as nature’s teachers – Waco Tribune

I started writing this month’s column in late August after a good rain that stimulated activity by native wildlife, plants, and nature-seeking people. Several locally hatched and grown-up Mississippi kites were still here whistling along the forested edges of our daily walking route before flying south for the winter. About the same time, a friend, Janet Wallace, counted 60 to 76 Mississippi kites circling together over Lake Waco.

Mississippi kites are hard to miss. As aerial predators of mainly large flying insects, they tend to perch in the open on electrical lines and tall bare branches of big trees to keep an eye on the sky as well as on the woods and yards below. A few young ones still beg for a meal, now mostly cicadas and grasshoppers.

As the last kite at our house left Aug. 21, I thought about climate change and how certain wildlife as infrequent part-timers have become annual local nesters. Other large, spring and summer nesting birds include broad-winged hawks that have mostly headed south by now, replaced by northern relatives resting and eating on their way south. Such transients mingling with summer locals can be confusing. But by the first week of September, most summer birds are gone, except white-eyed vireos singing territorial songs along our yard-forest border.

Do they keep warning others to stay away from their nest and feeding areas?

One of the bad happenings after a good rain is that it stimulates native amphibians to get on wet streets to soak up needed body water through their skins. But many are killed by cars, especially at night near street lights that draw them to the light-attracted insects they eat.

On one morning walk, my wife, Nancy, and I found seven car-smashed Gulf Coast toads and a flat-headed snake (its common name), with a flat, dead body that didn’t fit the name. The dead were in one short block. It wasn’t a new experience for us.

I transferred one live toad from a wet street to a nearby wet flowerbed, where it immediately dug itself into the soil. All Central Texas frogs, toads, and salamanders are amphibians and harmless, helpful insect-eaters, so please try to safely avoid these animals on wet streets, day or night. Our daytime lizards (reptiles) also are harmless, beneficial insect-eaters in yards and on driveways and sidewalks.

Native Turk’s cap flowers are blooming and attracting ruby-throated and black-chinned hummingbirds during September’s first week. Both hummers nest close by; the ruby-throats almost in our front yard.

Do you know that all the world’s hummingbirds live only in the Western Hemisphere? Hummers are attracted to our early frost weed flowers among the Turk’s caps that also attract gorgeous butterflies.

After the rain, Drummond’s white rain flowers burst forth by the dozens in some yards, but were just as quickly mowed down by grass cutters. Why? They don’t hurt grass, look great, smell wonderful and signal native renewal.

They make me think about showy, harmless, native lives with good messages killed by human ignorance. Do we need widespread public education about nature that allows us to live with it? After all, nature was here first and allowed people to “come in.”

Nancy and I are thankful for the beautiful black-striped yellow giant and tiger swallowtails and orange-colored Gulf fritillary butterflies drinking sap at our gorgeous wildflowers. Among them I glimpse an orange-colored Julia butterfly from deep South Texas or Northern Mexico, and wonder when this subtropical species and others move in with us, invited by our climate change.

In mid-morning, a gray fox pup looks in our front porch window, perhaps wondering what happened to that tasty dropped corn and sunflower seed.

The fox reminds me that all of us need to observe, understand, and appreciate nature’s messages and messengers. I think again about how native wildlife and plants show us about Earth, the only such place we know of in the universe.

Fred Gehlbach is a retired Baylor University research biologist.

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True Nature Healing Arts hosts first-ever Sacred Fest

Sacred Fest schedule of events

Friday, Sept. 5

All events are free on First Friday

5 p.m.: Ribbon Cutting with the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities

5:15 p.m.: Drum Circle, led by Kip Hubbard: Bring your own drum and help us raise the vibrations

5:30 p.m.: Soozie’s Larger Than Life Puppet Show

5:45 p.m.: African Dancers, “Ngoma,” in the Peace Garden

6-7 p.m.: Tours of the Labyrinth and Reflexology Path, tea tastings on the North Patio, kids’ arts crafts and high prana food tastings in the tent Village

7-8:30 p.m.: Scott Shanti Medina from Boulder present live Kirtan music in the Peace Garden Spiral. Bring a blanket or lawn chair and enjoy!

Saturday, Sept. 6

8:45-10:15 a.m.: Flow Yoga class in the main studio

Punch pass, membership or $15 drop in

9 a.m.: Tent Village opens: artistic, one-of-a-kind retail, high prana foods, kids’ activities

9 a.m.: Reflexology Path Guided Walk — free

10-10:30 a.m.: Tour With the Owners: Experience True Nature with Eaden and Deva Shantay, and learn the stories behind the amazing art, architecture and eco-construction — free

10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Mantras and Molecules with Dave Stringer, main studio — $30

This workshop will explore the neurochemistry of ecstasy through extensive practice of the call and response form of chanting known as Kirtan.

11 a.m. to noon: Family/Kids’ Yoga with Shannon in the Yoga Spiral — free

11 a.m. to noon: Taste and Discover: A Tea Presentation with Art of Tea’s Tyler Williams, tent village — $10

Noon to 1:30 p.m.: Labyrinth Workshop with Laura Kirk, small studio and labyrinth — $20

1-2 p.m.: What is Ayurveda? — with Kerry Kleisner, main studio — free

1-2 p.m.: Raw Ice Cream Social in the tent — free

2-3 p.m.: Healing Through Aura Soma, presented by Jacqui Forster, small studio — $10

2:30-3:30 p.m.: Reflexology Path Workshop with Kerry Kleisner — $10

Learn about and experience the benefits of reflexology as you combine the pathwalk with yoga, breathwork and meditation

3-4 p.m.: “The Great Transition from the Piscean to the Aquarian Age,” a lecture with Lee Beymer, main studio — $20

4:30-6 p.m.: A Raw Food Grand Tasting, presented by Chefs David Avalos and Pam David, tent — $25

7-9 p.m.: An Evening of Kirtan with Dave Stringer, with opening act Chante Pejuta — choose your donation of $5, $15 or $25: 100 percent of the proceeds will benefit the Give Back Yoga Foundation

Sunday, Sept. 7

8:45-10:15 a.m.: Flow Yoga class in the main studio

Punch pass, membership or $15 drop in

9 a.m. to noon: Tent Village opens: retail, food, kids’ activities

9 a.m.: Labyrinth Walk with Laura Kirk — free

10:30-11 a.m.: Blessing and Meditation in the Yoga Spiral with Deva and Eaden — free

11 a.m. to noon: Healing with Aura Soma and Readings with Jacqui Forster, small studio — $10

11 a.m. to noon: Tea Through the Ages: a Tea Presentation with Art of Tea’s Tyler Williams, tent — $10

11 a.m. to noon: Family/Kids’ Yoga in the Spiral with Shannon — free

12:30-1:30 p.m.: Gong and Singing Bowl Meditation with Dave and Pam in the main studio — $10

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