Today is Mother’s Day in the US and is a chance to honor and give thanks to mothers, both human and those of the animal variety!
In nature, mothers come in all shapes and sizes and are equipped with a wide range of different parenting styles. We’ve selected a handful of moms with unique and fascinating methods for raising their babies from keeping little ones close for years to kicking them right out of the nest before they can even fly!
Furry and ginormous, American bison mothers live with their young in hierarchical herds led by one dominant female. Within three hours of being born, the newborn calves are able to run about but are guarded closely by many of the herds’ mothers who will charge any intruders. Talk about safety in numbers!
Our fine, feather mom, the long-eared owl, takes on the more ‘distant’ parenting approach. In a behavior known as ‘branching’, chicks leave the nest before they are able to fly and reside in surrounding vegetation, roosting separately, and thereby potentially reducing predation. While the young are capable of flight at around 35 days, both parents continue to provide food for several weeks after fledging.
Read more at ENN Affiliate, ARKive.
The last time so much greenhouse gas was in the air was several million years ago, when the Arctic was ice-free, savannah spread across the Sahara desert and sea level was up to 40 metres higher than today.
These conditions are expected to return in time, with devastating consequences for civilisation, unless emissions of CO2 from the burning of coal, gas and oil are rapidly curtailed. But despite increasingly severe warnings from scientists and a major economic recession, global emissions have continued to soar unchecked.
“It is symbolic, a point to pause and think about where we have been and where we are going,” said Professor Ralph Keeling, who oversees the measurements on a Hawaian volcano, which were begun by his father in 1958. “It’s like turning 50: it’s a wake up to what has been building up in front of us all along.”
“The passing of this milestone is a significant reminder of the rapid rate at which – and the extent to which – we have increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” said Prof Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which serves as science adviser to the world’s governments. “At the beginning of industrialisation the concentration of CO2 was just 280ppm. We must hope that the world crossing this milestone will bring about awareness of the scientific reality of climate change and how human society should deal with the challenge.”
The world’s governments have agreed to keep the rise in global average temperature, which have already risen by over 1C, to 2C, the level beyond which catastrophic warming is thought to become unstoppable. But the International Energy Agency warned in 2012 that on current emissions trends the world will see 6C of warming, a level scientists warn would lead to chaos. With no slowing of emissions seen to date, there is already mounting pressure on the UN summit in Paris in 2015, which is the deadline set to settle a binding international treaty to curb emissions.
Edward Davey, the UK’s energy and climate change secretary, said: “This isn’t just a symbolic milestone, it’s yet another piece of clear scientific evidence of the effect human activity is having on our planet. I’ve made clear I will not let up on efforts to secure the legally binding deal the world needs by 2015 to avoid the worst effects of climate change.”
Two CO2 monitoring stations high on the Hawaiian volcano of Mauna Loa are run by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and provide the global benchmark measurement. Data released on Friday shows the daily average has passed 400ppm for the first time in its half century of recording. The level peaks in May each year as the CO2 released by decaying vegetation is taken up by renewed plant growth in the northern hemisphere, where the bulk of plants grow.
Analysis of fossil air trapped in ancient ice and other data indicate that this level has not been seen on Earth for 3-5 million years, a period called the Pliocene. At that time, global average temperatures were 3 or 4C higher than today’s and 8C warmer at the poles. Reef corals suffered a major extinction while forests grew up to the northern edge of the Arctic Ocean, a region which is today bare tundra.
“I think it is likely that all these ecosystem changes could recur,” said Richard Norris, a colleague of Keeling’s at Scripps. The Earth’s climate system takes time to adjust to the increased heat being trapped by high greenhouse levels and it may take hundreds of years for the great ice caps in Antarctica and Greenland to melt to the small size of the Pliocence and sea level far above many of the world’s major cities.
But the extreme speed at which CO2 in now rising – perhaps 75 times faster than in pre-industrial time – has never been seen in geological records and some effects of climate change are already being seen, withextreme heatwaves and flooding now more likely. Recent wet and cold summer weather in Europe has been linked to changes in the high level jetstream winds, in turn linked to the rapidly melting sea ice in the Arctic, which shrank to its lowest recorded level in September.
“We are creating a prehistoric climate in which human societies will face huge and potentially catastrophic risks,” said Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics. “Only by urgently reducing global emissions will we be able to avoid the full consequences of turning back the climate clock by 3 million years.”
“The 400ppm threshold is a sobering milestone and should serve as a wake up call for all of us to support clean energy technology and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, before it’s too late for our children and grandchildren,” said Tim Lueker, a carbon cycle scientist at Scripps.
Professor Bob Watson, former IPCC chair and UK government chief scientific adviser, said: “Passing 400ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is indeed a landmark and the rate of increase is faster than ever and shows no sign of abating due to a lack of political committment to address the urgent issue of climate change – the world is now most likely committed to an increase in surface temperature of 3C-5C compared to pre-industrial times.”
The graph of the rising CO2 at Mauna Loa is known as the Keeling curve, after the late Dave Keeling, the scientist who began the measurements in March 1958. The isolated Hawaiian island is a good location for measurements as it is far from the main sources of CO2, meaning it represents a good global average.
- Climate Milestone: Earth’s CO2 Level Nears 400 ppm (news.nationalgeographic.com)
- Carbon dioxide at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory reaches new milestone: Tops 400 parts per million (sciencedaily.com)
- 400 ppm …. yikes! (skeptical-science.com)
- Climate: Atmospheric CO2 reaches 400 ppm (summitcountyvoice.com)
In a letter seen by the Guardian, 150 high-profile figures, who between them raised millions for Obama’s two election campaigns, urged the president to use the next four years to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change. “Yours is the last presidency in which it is possible for America to choose a responsible path forward for itself, before climate disruption becomes unmanageably dangerous,” the letter said.
Opponents of the pipeline fear the project seems headed for approval, despite Obama’s promises to act on climate change in his second term. Obama told a group at a west coast fundraiser last month: “the politics of this are tough.”
The letter contends that the Keystone XL project would be the most important environmental decision of Obama’s presidency.
Opponents of the pipeline say it will open up the vast store of carbon in the Alberta tar sands. The pipeline could pump up to 830,000 barrels a day of tar sands crude to refineries on the Texas coast.
“This decision more than any other will signal your direction, your commitment, your resolve,” the letter said. “It is the biggest, most explicit statement you will make in this historic moment, the moment when America turns from denial to solutions – or fails to.”
The letter also evoked the political courage of Abraham Lincoln, who defied the conventional wisdom of his day, to end slavery.
“Your decision on Keystone may not be so weighty, but we believe it holds a comparable urgency and importance, not strictly as a pipeline decision but as a presidential choice that will signal a fundamentally new direction for our nation,” the letter said.
It ends by promising to support Obama against an inevitable backlash should he reject the pipeline, and in moving to a clean energy economy. “We pledge to support you in every way possible,” the letter said.
The letter was endorsed by some of Obama’s most prominent supporters such as Vinod Khosla, one of the founders of Sun Microsystems; Rob McKay, the heir to the Taco Bell fortune and chairman of the Democracy Alliance; Blythe Danner, the actor and mother of Gwyneth Paltrow and Susie Tompkins Buell, co-founder of the Esprit clothing line.
Buell alone donated more than $300,000 to Democratic candidates and groups in the 2012 elections, according to the Centre for Responsive Politics.
For most donors on the list, it is the first time they have weighed in so publicly on the Keystone decision.
However, Obama has been lobbied heavily at fundraisers and other private functions and some prominent supporters have gone public with their frustration about Keystone.
Tom Steyer, founder of the Farallon hedge fund, pledged to spend millions on behalf of election candidates who oppose the pipeline.
Other major donors have said they will not fund Organising for Action, the grassroots group set up to build support for Obama’s second term agenda. OFA has yet to come out against the Keystone XL, but it has started to take on Republicans in Congress who have blocked action on climate change or deny the science behind climate change. The group sent out a second email to supporters on Thursday, attacking the Republican house speaker, John Boehner, for saying that concerns about carbon dioxide emissions were “almost comical”.
Obama faces growing pressure from opponents and backers of the pipeline in the coming months – as does the secretary of state, John Kerry, who must also sign off on the project because it crosses an international border.
The Canadian government has been lobbying heavily for the project, as has the oil industry and the Chamber of Commerce.
The White House rejected campaigners’ argument that expanding the Keystone pipeline and opening up the tar sands was game over for the planet. “There have been thousands of miles of pipelines that have been built while President Obama has been in office, and I think the point is that it hasn’t necessarily had a significant impact one way or the other on addressing climate change,” the White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
The conventional wisdom in Washington is that Obama will approve the pipeline, probably later this year.
Some commentators have suggested that Obama would soften the sting by introducing new rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. However, those rules were in the making anyway.
Betsy Taylor, the political strategist who co-ordinated the letter, said the appeal from fundraisers was intended to show Obama that he would have strong support if he took the politically risky step of rejecting the pipeline.
“I think the president may feel alone because there is just this drum beat of advertising in favour of Keystone, framed as it is in a jobs context,” said Taylor. “But when he denies the Keystone permit he will ignite a rush of financial contributions and boots on the ground for clean energy candidates in 2014.”
- ‘This Is Our Last Chance’: Deep-Pocketed Dems Urge Obama to Reject Keystone XL (commondreams.org)
- Keystone XL Letter to the Editor (sunsetdaily.wordpress.com)
- Al Gore Tells Obama: Cancel Keystone XL (ecowatch.com)
- Pipeline Wars Seen Spreading After Fight on Keystone XL – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
The annual tradition of celebrating public gardens on the Friday preceding Mother’s Day weekend will continue this year on May 10, 2013 as communities throughout the United States celebrate National Public Gardens Day. ENN reports
Presented in partnership between the American Public Gardens Association (APGA) and irrigation product and service provider, Rain Bird, the annual day of awareness invites communities nationwide to explore the diverse beauty of their local green spaces and to take advantage of the conservation, education and environmental preservation resources public gardens provide.
The 2013 National Public Gardens Day will be celebrated by more than 500 North American botanic gardens, arboreta, museums, zoos and entertainment gardens with special events, tours and activities.
“Public gardens are treasures of the communities they serve,” said Casey Sclar, Executive Director of the American Public Gardens Association. “Whether the gardens are in urban centers or in rural communities, they not only provide recreation and beauty, but are also indispensable resources in education, the environment and culture. It is important to take time at least once a year and pay tribute to these pillars of the community and educate the public about the importance of plant and water conservation.”
National Public Gardens Day is supported by a national awareness campaign that utilizes broadcast public service announcements, media partnerships, national spokespeople, media tours and contests to drive local and national exposure to the importance of building sustainable environments through plant and water conservation, education and community engagement.
“The impact that public gardens and green spaces have on our communities cannot be understated, and as a presenting partner and co-founder of National Public Gardens Day, Rain Bird recognizes the need to bring awareness to how public gardens serve as invaluable resources for water conservation,” said Dave Johnson, Rain Bird’s director of corporate marketing. “National Public Gardens Day is a perfect opportunity to celebrate public gardens and underscore how they ideally support our company’s Intelligent Use of Water philosophy by demonstrating how green spaces can educate and inspire us while contributing to the health of our environment and the conservation of the world’s most precious resource.”
In celebration of botanical gardens, arboreta, conservatories, educational gardens and historical landscapes, many of the APGA’s 500 member institutions will mark the day with special events and activities for schools, families, garden enthusiasts and other visitors. Many of the activities will continue through Mother’s Day weekend, offering visitors time to enjoy the beauty of the gardens while learning about each garden’s commitment to education, research and environmental stewardship.
For more information on National Public Gardens Day, visit www.NationalPublicGardensDay.org.
- PHS Celebrates National Public Gardens Day (philadelphiagreen.wordpress.com)
- This Friday! National Public Gardens Day (anaturemom.com)
- Guest Voices: Join Us for Smithsonian Gardens’ Garden Fest 2013! (earthmatters2013.wordpress.com)
People waking up in the Australian Outback Friday morning, along with other parts of the Pacific, were among the lucky few to witness a “ring of fire” solar eclipse, as the moon slipped between the Earth and the sun, covering everything but a blazing ring of light around the edges.
(DETAILS: Solar Eclipse Turns Sun into ‘Ring of Fire’)
The eclipse lasted between three and six minutes, depending on its location, and blacked out around 95 percent of the sun at its peak.
Source: The Weather Channel
- ‘Ring of fire’ eclipse crosses Australia, Pacific (miamiherald.com)
- ‘Ring of Fire’ solar eclipse puts on a dazzling show in Australian Outback (science.nbcnews.com)
- Solar Eclipse: ‘Ring of Fire’ Eclipse Expected in Australia on Friday (scienceworldreport.com)
- ‘Ring of fire’ eclipse crosses Australia, Pacific (nzherald.co.nz)