My kids just want to play videos games and watch TV all day. Do you have any tips for getting them outside to appreciate nature more? – Sue Levinson, Bowie, Md.
Getting kids away from computer and TV screens and outside into the fresh air is an increasing challenge for parents everywhere.
Researchers have found that U.S. children today spend about half as much time outdoors as their counterparts did 20 years ago. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that kids aged eight to 18 spend on average more than seven and a half hours a day, or some 53-plus hours per week, engaging with so-called entertainment media.
Meanwhile, the Children & Nature Network, a nonprofit founded by writers and educators concerned about “nature deficit disorder,” finds that, in a typical week, only 6 percent of American kids age nine to 13 play outside on their own.
According to Richard Louv, a founding board member of C&NN and author of the book, Last Child in the Woods, kids who stay inside too much can suffer from “nature deficit disorder” which can contribute to a range of behavioral problems including attention disorders, depression and declining creativity as well as physical problems like obesity.
Louv blames parental paranoia about potential dangers lurking outdoors, restricted access to natural areas, and the lure of video games, websites and TV for “nature deficit disorder.”
Of course, one of the keys to getting kids to appreciate nature is for parents to lead by example by getting off the couch and into the outdoors themselves. Since kids love being with their parents, why not take the fun outside?
For those kids who need a little extra prodding beyond following a parent’s good example, the National Wildlife Federation, a leading national nonprofit dedicated to preserving and appreciating wildlife, offers lots of suggestions and other resources through its Be Out There campaign.
One tip is to pack an “explorer’s kit” complete with a magnifying glass, binoculars, containers for collecting, field guides, a notebook, bug repellent and Band-Aids, into a backpack and leave it by the door to facilitate spontaneous outdoor adventures. Another idea is to set aside one hour each day as “green hour,” during which kids go outside exploring, discovering and learning about the natural world.
NWF’s online Activity Finder helps parents discover fun outdoor activities segmented by age. Examples include going on a Conifer Quest and making a board displaying the different types of evergreen trees in the neighborhood, turning an old soda bottle into a terrarium and building a wildlife brush shelter.
Another great source of inspiration is C&NN. It encourages people of all ages to spend more time outdoors at various family-friendly events as part of its nationwide Let’s Get Outside initiative. Visitors to the C&NN website can scroll through dozens of events within driving distance of most Americans and anyone can register an appropriate event there as well.
Researchers have found that children who play outside are in better shape, more creative, less aggressive and show better concentration than their couch potato counterparts. And it is also the most direct route to environmental awareness for adults is participating in wild nature activities as kids. So do yourself and your children a favor, and take a hike.
Dear EarthTalk: How are populations of African elephants faring these days? What conservation efforts are under way and are they working? – Libby Broullette, Salem, Mass.
A century ago some five millions wild elephants roamed Africa. Today fewer than 500,000 remain, a result of poaching for meat and ivory as well as habitat loss due to expanding human development. A worldwide ban on ivory sales in 1990 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species allowed some populations to recover briefly, but a recent resurgence in illegal poaching means the iconic species is still in hot water.
The United Nations Environment Programme reported recently that African elephants are “under severe threat” with double the number killed and triple the amount of ivory seized in recent years over previous decades. And the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which maintains the international “Red List of Threatened Species,” categorizes African elephants as “vulnerable” and warns that conservation initiatives are not working to stem declining population numbers.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, poachers kill tens of thousands of African elephants each year to meet the growing demand for ivory products across the Far East.
“Asia stands behind a steadily increasing trend in illegal ivory and there are still thriving domestic ivory markets in Africa,” says WWF.
In addition to the demand for ivory, war and natural resource exploitation across Africa contribute to poaching as increasingly larger numbers of hungry people turn to wild elephant meat as a source of food. WWF reports that limited resources, along with the remoteness and inaccessibility of so much elephant habitat, make it difficult for governments and agencies to monitor and protect elephant herds.
Beyond poaching, habitat loss looms larger and larger over Africa’s diverse fauna, especially elephants as they require large ranges and dine on copious amounts of tree and plant life.
“African elephants’ natural habitat is also shrinking as human populations grow and forest and savannas are cleared for infrastructure development and agriculture,” says WWF.
Researchers estimate that elephants’ range across Africa has been reduced from three million to just one million square miles in the last three decades.
“Commercial logging, plantations for biofuels and extractive industries like logging and mining not only destroy habitat but also open access to remote elephant forests for poachers,” adds WWF. “In addition, extensive logging of forests leaves elephants with a very limited food supply, which results in high levels of human-elephant conflict when hungry elephants enter villages and destroy local farmers’ crops.”
In 2011, U.S. Congress reauthorized the long dormant African Elephant Conservation Act, putting $1.7 million into rescue efforts. Green groups raised another $3.6 million and now 29 on-the-ground projects are working to help restore elephant herds across Africa.
Efforts include promoting partnerships between African and Far East wildlife and law enforcement agencies to detect and intercept illegally trafficked wildlife and improve prosecution rates, installing radio networks to improve communication between wildlife protection personnel, and aerial surveillance to rapidly detect and respond to poaching. Let’s just hope efforts like these will bear fruit in the face of rapidly continuing habitat loss.
Send environmental questions to: Earth Talk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; Click here to submit it at emagazine or e-mail: email@example.com.
- African elephants face extinction ‘within a decade’ (itv.com)
- Elephants (ecofriendsmne.wordpress.com)
- Poachers kill at least 26 elephants in Central Africa (mnn.com)
- GRAPHIC PHOTOS: Massive Elephant Slaughter Strikes Sanctuary (huffingtonpost.com)
- African leaders must emulate Chinese celebrities to save elephants | Paula Kahumbu (guardian.co.uk)
- At Least 26 Elephants Killed by Poachers in Central Africa (livescience.com)
Masked men have stolen four stuffed rhino heads from Ireland‘s national museum.
Police said three men raided the storeroom in Swords, north of Dublin, on Wednesday night and tied up the lone security guard on duty. He later freed himself and raised the alarm.
Nigel Monaghan, keeper at the museum‘s natural history section, said it had never before experienced such a theft but had worried that the rhinos would be targeted.
He said the four heads – three of black rhinos from Kenya, one of the virtually extinct white rhino from Sudan, all killed more than a century ago – were removed from display last year and put into storage to safeguard them from thieves.
He said the eight horns could be worth about €500,000 (£430,000) on the black market based on their weight.
Three of the five species of rhinoceros in Africa and South Asia have been hunted to near extinction because their horns command exceptionally high prices for use in traditional Asian medicine, chiefly in China and Vietnam, where the powdered horn is marketed as an aphrodisiac and even a cure for cancer.
The horns are made of keratin, a fibrous protein that is the building block for skin and hair. It has no documented medicinal value.
- Rhino Poaching Crisis Expands (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Sell rhino horn to save species: researchers (abc.net.au)
- Scottish rhino DNA database to tackle horn thefts (scotsman.com)
- Aust scientists push for legal rhino trade (news.theage.com.au)
- Poaching to Cause Fall in Rhino Population within Two Years (scienceworldreport.com)
- Scientists Call for Legalization of Rhino Horn Trade (theepochtimes.com)
WILDLIFE : International school project will track ospreys… but is the Government doing away with Nature?
Thousands of children from across Europe and Africa are to be brought together in a pioneering project to create a new generation of conservationists. Yet the Government is planning to reduce the importance placed on learning about the natural environment. The Independent reports.
NAEE is very concerned about the environment being further extracted from the curriculum!
The osprey is being used to capture the attention of pupils. Satellite data showing the progress of the bird along its annual migration routes is being used in an interactive map which allows schools to follow the flights of birds tagged with GPS trackers.
Launched at ospreys.org.uk, it is the expansion of a pilot project in which several schools in Gambia – where the osprey spends the winter – have partnered with schools in England, where some breed each summer.
The pilot project began in 2011, but this year will involve schools from countries along the migration route, said Tim Mackrill, from Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, which manages the “flyways” project. “This is the first project to enable schools to link up through the migration of this particular bird,” he said. Schools in Spain, Morocco, Finland, Ukraine, Italy and Estonia have already signed up.
Campaigners are fighting government proposals which would scrap references to children being required to be taught “to care for the environment”. They fear the move will undermine pupils’ understanding and appreciation of nature, according to the Wildlife Trusts. It is appealing for people to oppose the curriculum changes online at: education.gov.uk/consultations.
“It is very worrying if the Government is planning to reduce the importance placed on learning about the natural environment,” Mr Mackrill said.
- Caledonia the osprey living high life in Seville (scotsman.com)
- Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust launches Staunton Country Park courses (portsmouth.co.uk)
- The business of shorebirds (worldwaders.wordpress.com)
- Art the Osprey continues journey home (wmur.com)
- Green Parenting : 5 Kids Wildlife Subscription Gifts (bynature.co.uk)
From elephantjournal: When I was only four or five years old, I was trained to just rinse my toothbrush at the beginning of brushing my teeth and after I was finished.
Running the water throughout the duration of getting my pearly whites clean never even crossed my mind. In recent years as I’ve grown more aware of my water footprint, I didn’t understand how saving water in my hometown of Philadelphia was relevant to Africa’s dire need of water.
We learned it in third grade science—doesn’t water come into your faucets, go back into the ground and evaporate for us to reuse? It’s the ultimate renewable resource, and we’ve been drinking the same water that the dinosaurs drank. If T-rex survived (until a meteor hit), why should we panic?
We live in such an ironic time. In many ways, we’ve grown accustomed to unpronounceable chemicals in our household items and beauty products, not knowing what’s in our food and accepting company-suggested medicines and lifestyles as truth. However, there’s also a movement that’s aware of what we’re doing to ourselves and trying to resist change to go back to the ‘old’ ways.
Water is the essential piece of life that we all depend on and need.
Yet we’ve taken advantage of this resource by bottling it in plastic, hoarding it for cheap fashion and material objects and taken millions of gallons of it to extract natural gas from the earth. Sometimes I feel as if I’m taking crazy pills that no one connects the dots of all of these actions, considering the potential consequences.
As World Water Day is approaching (observed on March 22nd) to promote initiatives for the world’s water sources, it’s important that we reflect on the dangers to our most valuable resource.
What are the biggest dangers to our water supplies?
“Fracking” or hydraulic fracturing. One to eight million gallons of water may be used to frack a well, and a well may be fracked up to 18 times. Up to 144 million gallons of water could potentially be used to frack one natural gas well. The process of fracking has been proven to polluting underground water as well, seeping up from the gas wells.
Mountaintop removal coal mining is Appalachia pollutes the streams and rivers, making them dangerous for fish, aquatic life and humans. The mountaintop removal process releases toxic metals like cadmium, selenium, arsenic and others, leading to higher incidents of cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, birth defects, premature morality and other issues.
Pharmaceuticals and chemicals. Acetaminophen, DEET, butalbital and other chemicals were found in New York’s drinking water supply. Estrogen from birth control pills and other sources have entered the water supply. Possible side effects from estrogen include links to human fertility problems.
Climate change will likely affect our water supply, altering the timing of our snows and spring rains. Rising water levels will destroy property and train freshwater supplies with salt.
Yet one of the biggest threats to our water supply could be taking advantage of water as if we believe it is endless.
Although most of us are mindful to our water footprint, a simple leak, faulty toilet handle or taking half-hour showers can potentially lose thousands of gallons of water. Water wars have already begun around the world, and in the U.S. like at the Tennessee-Georgia border. As Alex Prud’homme, author of the Ripple Effect, predicts—the next great war will be over water.
We never know the worth of water till the well is dry. ~ Thomas Fuller
What can we do about it? It’s crucial that we are start in our own homes, observing where the biggest water wastes come from. We don’t have to wash every piece of clothing after wearing it once or wash our hair every shower. Perhaps homeowners will think twice before digging their own swimming pool, instead joining a local community club.
Outside threats from companies, oil and gas industry and more continue to threaten our water supply, and it’s essential to vote with our dollars and communicate with political representatives. But let’s all start by looking in the mirror.
- You: Fracking communities should get incentives, says minister (guardian.co.uk)
- Antero Reservoir To Be Drained To Save Water Supply (denver.cbslocal.com)
- Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining Poisons Appalachia’s Waterways (sierraclub.typepad.com)
- The Drought, Still (chron.com)
China has made significant progress in the fight against the illicit trade of wildlife products, including ivory and rhino horn, according to a top wildlife conservation specialist. China Daily reports
“China has been serious about strengthening its regulations and law enforcement against the illegal wildlife products trade,” said John Scanlon, secretary-general of the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
“When we look at China, we must recognize the great efforts it has made,” he said, adding that among 177 partner countries of the organization, China is one of the most actively engaged.
“It is not the Chinese government that is involved in the illicit trade, but some individuals are acting illegally. We have to draw a distinction clearly.”
Efforts led by the Ministry of Forestry are functioning well. Enforcement has been significantly improved, and coordination between agencies including police, customs and forest inspectors has been fine-tuned, according to Scanlon.
But there is also an urgent need for the government to raise public awareness of wildlife protection, he said.
“How do you raise the awareness? I think the best way is working with Chinese people, because they know the culture, they know the best way to communicate. That’s why we use our own Chinese staff to directly work with the Chinese authorities to see how we can work with China to help raise awareness,” he said.
Much of the illicit trade relies on the lack of understanding of its implications, he said. That makes it important to work with international organizations such as the United Nations Environmental Programme, which can reach a large number of people.
China has recently invested $200,000 in the African Elephant Fund, based in Kenya, to further protect the species, Scanlon said.
He said there are a significant number of exchanges between China and Africa in terms of wildlife protection enforcement.
“I think what we need to recognize is that domestically, China has taken significant actions to protect the species and the same can be also said of Africa, countries like South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, which are taking very strong action to protect their national heritage, the wildlife,” he added.
He said the weak governance in some African countries leads to difficulties enforcing wildlife conservation because of human conflicts and the rampant illicit wildlife trade.
“Unlike the trade in rhino horns, which is all illegal, ivory is a little bit different, because it was traded until 1999, when there was a trade ban imposed,” he said. “In China and other countries, there is a certificate system to legally sell ivory.”
“That’s why we are working with the Chinese government to ensure the system and regulations are fully rigorous, making sure the legal trade is not well-laundered ivory which has been taken illegally,” he said. “When there is a legal trade, there is an opportunity for laundering, and that’s why we should have very tight national legal controls.”
- WILDLIFE: People and animals at immediate risk from crime, CITES chief warns (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Wildlife conservation summit begins (bigpondnews.com)
- CITES 2013 comment : ‘Humankind under the spotlight’ (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- New UN Report Warns of Uncertain Future for African Elephants / Elephant Poaching Doubled & Illegal Ivory Trade Tripled in Last Decade Endangering Already Fragile Populations / Enhanced Law Enforcement, International Collaboration and Reducing Demand Requ (appablog.wordpress.com)
- People and animals at immediate risk from wildlife crime, Cites chief warns (guardian.co.uk)
- Online ivory trade threatens elephants (stuff.co.nz)
- News You Really Need To See: “From Elephants’ Mouths, an Illicit Trail to China” (notwhatyoumightthink.wordpress.com)
- The perfect poacher’s storm threatening endangered species (itv.com)