A Blog by Nature

Trashing a Harbor

Posted on January 14, 2015 at 10:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Waterwheel Collects Trash



Image credit: NPR News June 23, 2014 By Julia Botero: Baltimore’s Water Wheel Keeps on Turning, Pulling in Tons of Trash

 

Baltimore's Inner Harbor is a city landmark teeming with tourists, restaurants and — until recently — floating trash.


John Kellett used to walk by Pier 6 every day on his way to work at the Baltimore Maritime Museum on the Inner Harbor. He'd notice the trash floating in the water and hear tourists call the harbor disgusting — and it bugged him.


That's when he developed his idea: a big water wheel to collect the plastic cups, cigarette butts and Cheetos bags that flow into the waterway after rainstorms. Kellett approached Baltimore officials about ways to remove the trash — and they listened. The water wheel is now docked in the harbor.


"It looks sort of like a cross between a spaceship and a covered wagon and an old mill," says Kellett. "It's pretty unique in its look, but it's also doing a really good job getting this trash out of the water."


You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.


"I started out thinking, 'Maybe we could bale it like a hay baler.' And then I said, 'Well, that's not necessary; maybe we can make it even simpler — we can just use the power of the runoff that brings it to collect it,' " he says.


Kellett is talking about the runoff from the Jones Falls river. He placed the water wheel right where the river spills into the harbor. That's where trash lingering on Baltimore's streets ends up after rainstorms sweep it into storm drains. The city used to catch the trash with crab nets. But since the water wheel began churning in May, it has removed 40 tons of trash from the harbor.


NPR News June 23, 2014 By Julia Botero Baltimore’s Water Wheel Keeps on Turning, Pulling in Tons of Trash

Disconnecting

Posted on January 12, 2015 at 8:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Wilderness and the Millennial


Image credit: Sierra Club article Wild Connections by Jeff Wagner


There's a growing hunger in my generation for something raw and true. To be on the loose, free from traffic jams, professional references, and masses of people lost in the pale glow of their electronics. Young people tell me they want a different lifestyle, one where simple things like peace and health are more important than a quick profit or instant visibility on the internet. They want to live in a society that values the things that pay off in the long run, like clean air, clean water, and a starry night sky. They want things that pay off in human terms. Lots of things come in instant form, but not happiness, kindness, peace, empathy, genuine connections, and certainly not patience. So what's the role of wilderness for my generation? All those twenty-somethings trying to make their way in this world? Environmentalists have no greater ally and teacher than wilderness. I see it in every person I spend time with in wild places and how it changes their perspectives on the world. Wilderness lets us experience an alternative to what humans have created, and it demands that we ask ourselves where our world is going.


Article: Nov/Dec issue of Sierra Magazine Green Life: Wild Connections by Jeff Wagner

Concrete Jungle

Posted on January 7, 2015 at 4:30 PM Comments comments (0)

What do primate zoo environments and corporate offices have in common?

Excerpt from The Atlantic April 28, 2014

Article by Laura Smith titled: The Mind Does Not Belong in a Cubicle

Image credit: Joerg Sarbach

The savannah was our original “workspace,” and though our world today hardly resembles our ancestral environment, our biological rules still apply. E.O. Wilson, the famed biologist who studies biophilia, said our inherent appreciation and longing for natural environments, explains that “beauty is our word for the qualities that have contributed most to human survival.” Waterfalls signify an abundant source of life, flowers signify bountiful land. We are wired to crave the natural world.


Stephen Kellert, a social ecologist at Yale, told me that our poor office design is a sign that we don’t see ourselves as animals, as having biological needs. “The measure of progress in our civilization,” he said, “is not embracing nature, but moving away from nature and transcending nature and becoming independent of our biology.” Kellert told me that he finds zoos ironic. We consider it “inhumane” to keep a gorilla in an indoor, concrete environment with no exposure to greenery or anything resembling its natural habitat, and yet we put ourselves in these environments all the time.

Gyre Expedition

Posted on January 6, 2015 at 4:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Debris on remote beaches, even in the wilderness of Alaska


Peter Murphy, the Alaska Regional Coordinator for the NOAA Marine Debris Program, was recently invited to participate in the GYRE Expedition, an innovative and unique project planned by the Alaska Sea Life Center that brought together scientists, removal experts, educators and artists aboard the R/V Norseman to observe, discuss and explore the issue of marine debris in Alaska and work on ways to raise awareness nationwide.


There’s an active, innovative and positive debris community. The debris problem is big and multi-faceted, so it can seem overwhelming. But having had the chance to meet with people on the beaches they’ve worked hard to clean, and listen to stories of the ways they’ve come up with to do that work, shows how much difference a few people can make.



Humans are the source of debris and the solution. Every piece of debris we found on beaches came from one source – people. Whatever country it came from, it still was manufactured by people for use by people. Cleanups on the beaches (and in the water) help reduce the amount of debris in the ocean, but preventing more debris is the key. That prevention takes people changing their behavior, not just at sea but on land, where data shows more than 80 percent of all marine debris starts. Hopefully this trip is part of the awareness that leads to those changed behaviors.

The Science of Awe

Posted on January 5, 2015 at 4:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Can psychologists chart what happens when nature blows your mind?

The Sierra Club November 2014

Authors: Jake Abrahamson

An awe inspiring view as seen from the International Space Station at an altitude of 235 miles. ISS 007 crew, July 21, 2003. Credit: NASA JSC/ISS 07 crew image by Michael Benson


In his Sierra Club article Jake Abrahamson talks about an evening storm on a camping trip, “scientifically speaking, the storm brought me into a state of awe, an emotion that, psychologists are coming to understand, can have profoundly positive effects on people. It happens when people encounter a vast and unexpected stimulus, something that makes them feel small and forces them to revise their mental models of what’s possible in the world. In its wake, people act more generously and ethically, think more critically when encountering persuasive stimuli, like arguments or advertisements, and often feel a deeper connection to others and the world in general. Awe prompts people to redirect concern away from the self and toward everything else. And about three- quarters of the time, it’s elicited by nature.

What's nature got to do with it?

Posted on December 17, 2014 at 2:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Why give children a well-rounded education?



One of the more celebrated books on the subject of children and their relationship with nature is “Last Child in the Woods” written by Richard Louv. In his book, Louv refers to an educator named John Rick who is “dismayed that nature has disappeared from the classroom, except for discussions of environmental catastrophe.” Rick states “we have industrialized the classroom to the extent that there is no room for nature in the curriculum.” And he goes on to say “ a well-rounded education would mean learning the basics (reaching and writing), to become part of a society that cherished nature, while at the same time contributing to the well-being of mankind.

Monet without nature

Posted on December 16, 2014 at 2:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Just imagine, no water lilies for Monet


Article and image from The Nature Conservancy: Nature in Art




Can you imagine walking through an art museum and not seeing any trees? No mountains or streams, sunrises or sunsets? No birds or horses? No boats on rough waves or relaxing landscapes?


It’s impossible, because nature is everywhere in art – from the literal to the abstract inspiration provided by the textures, colors and sounds of the natural world.


Being outdoors can lift our spirits and stoke our creativity. The beauty of nature reflected in art is just another reminder of our need to protect it.


From the beginning of human history, nature has played a vital role in our creative expression. The lands and waters we rely on for daily survival shape how we view and interpret the world around us. And in turn, the art we create from nature’s inspiration becomes part of our personal and cultural identity. Nature’s beauty and power is ingrained in our lives, our history and our culture. By conserving nature, we are helping nurture our artistic spirit and ensuring that future generations will continue to find inspiration in the natural world around us.