Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A 110-Million-Year-Old Trash Collector

Fossilized lacewing larva displays oldest known camouflaging behavior in insects.

An illustration of an extinct lacewing that decorated itself with garbage.
An artist's conception of the fossilized lacewing larvae with the beginnings of its trash packet.

Illustration courtesy J.A. Peñas, PNAS

Jane J. Lee

In a group of insects called green lacewings, larvae often make a habit of decorating themselves with bits of vegetation, insect carcasses, or whatever else the young pick up from their surroundings to use as a disguise as they sneak up on prey and to hide from predators such as birds. 

Researchers had long speculated that this was an ancient behavior, but just how ancient was difficult to say until a recent find in Spain. There, in a forest 110 million years ago, a lacewing larvae was encased in amber along with its collection of fern pieces tangled on protrusions on its back.

Not only is this the earliest known occurrence of this behavior in lacewings, said paleoentomologist and study co-author Michael Engel at the University of Kansas, but "it's also the earliest occurrence of this camouflaging behavior among insects as a whole."

Lacewing larvae aren't the only invertebrates to employ odd camouflage techniques—decorator crabs will stick live animals, such as sea anemones, on their shells to blend in with their surroundings. (See photos of other undersea camouflage techniques.)

But ancient use of this behavior in lacewing larvae had been seen only in 45-million-year-old fossils from the Dominican Republic. The new Spanish fossil, described in a study to be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, pushes the age of this behavior back to the early Cretaceous.

When doctoral student Ricardo Pérez-de La Fuente of the University of Barcelona discovered the fossil in amber he had collected, he and Engel were dumbstruck.

"It's one thing to crawl along and have things get stuck to you," Engel said. "It's another thing to select materials from your environment to put on your back—for a little larva, this is a complex behavioral suite."
The trash packet entombed with its collector is composed only of fern trichomes, or the little hairs that give some ferns a fuzzy appearance.

"It's likely [the larva] could have been very selective of what to put on its back," said Engel.

Since the lacewing lineage extends even further back in time to the latter part of the Jurassic, it's possible that a primitive form of this camouflaging behavior may go back that far as well, Engel said. (Related: "Oldest Known Spiderweb Found in Ancient Amber.")

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Former Ga. Homeless Vet Pays it Forward

A year ago, Curtis Butler, III was homeless and sleeping in his car. He attempted suicide twice. This week, he is giving money to those less fortunate. 

Butler, 45, is a two-tour veteran of the Iraq war who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. When he returned home with his disability, he was initially denied benefits and he fell on hard times. He lost contact with his children. He had no home, no money and no hope. Twice, he overdosed on pills and alcohol. 

"I figured nobody cared about me," Butler told ABC News. "I had to worry about paying bills. I didn't love myself or anyone else." 

But Butler finally did get his benefits and turned his life around. On Monday, he made the holidays a little bit easier for two dozen strangers. Butler was standing in line at a Georgia Power office waiting to pay his utility bill. He heard another customer talking about how difficult it had been to make ends meet. He paid that couple's $230 bill and then kept going. When he was finished, he had doled out $2,000 to pay power bills for 20 people. 

"This was the anniversary of me being homeless and now I am putting smiles on other people's faces," Butler told ABC News.

One woman's power had been turned off at her home because she didn't have any money to pay her bill. Butler paid it for her and then gave her more cash for her children.

"I told her, your kids can't open their presents on Christmas morning with no lights on… And now, they have more money for food or presents," Butler said.

Genice Harris, a clerk at the Georgia Power office told ABC affiliate WSB that everyone was stunned. "I could tell it was spontaneous and he was smiling and people were like, 'I can't believe this.' They actually started taking pictures with this guy," Harris said.

She choked back tears as she talked about Butler. "There really is a God and…. He does send people to help others that are in need," Harris said. 

"I have been there and done it, been close to eating out of trash cans….I was the one on the street with my hand out asking for some change," Butler told ABC News. "God put me in that predicament, so that one day I could help others." 

Butler has written a book about living with PTSD and he has a website to promote his efforts advocating new programs for disabled veterans. In his book, "PTSD: My Story, Please Listen!" he writes about returning home and falling on hard times. 

"Just because we have PTSD, doesn't mean we are not good people," Butler said. "We come back from fighting in a war and we can't get a job… It is hard to tell your kid that 'I can't support you because I am homeless after fighting for our country.'" 

But Butler now is getting the help he needs. He gets counseling through his church. He reconnected with his children. And now he owns an apartment and is about to get married.

"One night I prayed and I asked God, 'can you reveal to me my wife?' And he said, 'Yeah stupid, you sit next to [her in ] church every Sunday'....God works miracles and wonders every day," Butler said.
This is not the first time he has been a Good Samaritan. Last year, he bought haircuts for 200 homeless vets and the people of his community.

Butler says he knows all about falling on hard times and is happy now that he can be generous with others. As for next year's good deed, Butler hasn't decided. "Me and God are going to talk about that," he said.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

YikeBike review

Want to meet a bunch of random strangers everywhere you go? Start riding around on a neon green electric bicycle that looks like nothing this world has seen before, something tossed out of a passing UFO that some New Zealand shepherd found glowing slightly as it rested in the middle of a smoking crater. This $3,595 electric bicycle with a 15mph top speed and six mile range does come from New Zealand, but the YikeBike is very much a product of human ingenuity, or so creator Grant Ryan claims, but that doesn't stop it from giving us a riding experience that is nothing short of other-worldly. Unfortunately, that doesn't necessarily equate to a entirely perfect experience.


A penny-farthing for these times

Yeah, we're not particularly keen on the name "YikeBike" either; it sounds like a Ferengi gambling term or an epithet hurled in some harsh foreign language. Over the course of our testing we were asked many times "What is that thing?" Each time we responded with "YikeBike" the follow-up question was "What?" Perhaps this is proof that the name doesn't exactly stick, but it is certainly odd enough to describe this very odd cycle.

It's something like a modern interpretation to the penny-farthing style bicycle. You know, the old timey ride with a giant wheel up front, tiny one out back, bowler hat wearing gentleman perched precariously up top, high enough to make one wonder how he got there in the first place.

The YikeBike is thankfully much smaller, its front tire having a diameter of just 20-inches. This is a little bigger than that purple or blue (or both) Huffy you had as a kid, with a rear wheel just 8-inches inches across. It's a strange looking bird, but it isn't odd for the sake of turning heads. That little rear wheel collapses and tucks inside the front, which is almost entirely enclosed by an all carbon fiber shroud containing the battery pack, motor, and probably some kryptonite too.

Likewise the handlebars fold down, the seat tucks away, and the whole thing turns into a puck that, with the addition of a padded shoulder strap, becomes a 23lb back appendage that is, unfortunately, rather larger than George Jetson's briefcase and a bit too large to carry on to a flight. However, it's plenty small enough to work on a subway or other means of public transportation where it could fill the gap between the closest stop and your destination. It's also light enough to carry up some stairs, but we wouldn't recommend lugging it for too long. We think your chiropractor would agree.

The folding and unfolding process takes about 20 or 30 seconds, naturally getting quicker the more times you do it, involving a handful clamps and folds. Sadly there is no button you can press to have the thing automatically furl and unfurl, an addition that would really knock the socks out of those slack-jawed passers by -- adding unneeded cost and complexity in the process.

However, one simple thing that really is missing is some form of kick stand. There's simply no way to keep the thing from falling over except for leaning it against something. When folded it's basically round and decidedly top-heavy, so even propping it up can be a challenge. Some sort of little fold-down center stand is really needed.

On the back is an array of decidedly conspicuous LEDs that act as brake and turn signals -- yes, there are little buttons on the handlebars that let you indicate a turning direction. Just in front of those buttons are a pair of even brighter LEDs that act as makeshift headlights. No, they won't deliver sweet comeuppance to those xenon blinders in their luxury cars, but they will at least let you see far enough to get home safely after yet another late-night production deployment.

Learning to ride

Five wobbly feet into our first ride on the YikeBike it became painfully clear that motorcycle and bicycle experience isn't going to help much here. The YikeBike is steered by handlebars that sit at your sides, on stalks that extend from behind the seat. Turning the bars turns the front wheel, feet either side on pegs that fold down from that swoopy carbon cowling. Meanwhile the seat is really attached to the rear wheel.

It's a bit odd, to have your feet and the front wheel turn while your body keeps looking straight. If you want to experience it, hop on the handlebars of a friend's bike and have him let you steer, just be aware that if you fall over and break something we will not be held liable.

Thankfully on the YikeBike you're much lower, so falling over is a lot harder. Squeeze the throttle too hard (a trigger on the right grip) and you might just lose your balance, but you can always just put a foot down. Alternately if you hit the brake too hard (a trigger on the left grip) the bike does an immediate endo, bucking you out of the seat. This may sound dangerous, but it actually feels quite natural: you just stand up.

Regardless of how cool such a dismount may look the idea is naturally to ride in control, and YikeBike the company recommends 30 minutes in an open area of slow-speed riding to get used to things before you get too crazy. There's even something of a grenade pin that fits in the throttle (which is cheekily shaped like the bike itself), preventing newbies from inadvertently quick getaways.

It took us about 15 minutes before we felt comfortable pulling the pin. Rebels, we know. Like snowboarding or riding a motorcycle it actually got easier the faster you went, so once we got over our early wobbles we felt comfortable giving it a bit more stick -- with restraint. An itchy trigger finger can still send you into a wee tank-slapper, and the touchy regenerative brakes do take some practice. But, we didn't fall once and didn't scrape a single knee, which is more than we can say for learning to ride a bike as a kid. All this without training wheels!

Saddling up

The seat on the YikeBiks is, in bicycle terms, rather generously sized and padded -- more Huffy than Selle. That said, after a few minutes of cradling it with your nether regions it begins to... irritate. That's thanks to the riding position that sees you placing almost your entire weight on that seat.

On a bicycle some amount of your mass is supported by the handlebars and some by the pedals. Here, though, with your feet out front and your hands down at your sides most of your weight is on your kiester and, well, after a little while things start to get a little sore. We're thinking frequent cyclists won't mind so much, but if your cheeks haven't embraced a bike seat in awhile prepare for an acclimatization period.

Try as we might we alas weren't able to get up to that 15mph top speed, at least not according to GPS, not even with a slight downhill run. Our best was about 13.5mph, though perhaps with a little more breaking in than our virgin steed had experienced things would roll more smoothly. Also, due to a series of blizzards we haven't been able to get as much road time as we'd have wanted, but battery life thus far has given us little reason to doubt the six mile range estimate from the company.

It's abundantly clear that this is not an all-terrain machine, though: the tire is a slick and the only suspension is provided by whatever cushioning nature gave you. YikeBike assured us the machine is fully waterproof, and indeed we bisected some puddles without getting electrocuted or a skunk stripe up our backs, but it seemed like a shame to get something this lovely all covered in excessive road grime.

When depleted you'll need to break out a generously sized charging brick, which has an annoying little fan that spins away to presumably keep the aluminum box from combusting. A charge takes about 45 minutes, which is quite acceptable, but having to use that charging brick is a bit of a bother. If you're looking to charge on the go it means you'll either need to take it with you or cough up another $100 for a second one. Given the weight of the brick and the total cost of the bike we'd say the extra $100 isn't so bad.

One thing we wouldn't spring for is the paint. This is actually the first painted YikeBike in the world -- initial shipping models are available in any color you like so long as it's carbon fiber. That early status shows, with a few paint flaws jumping out at us as soon as the bike sprang from its container and a couple scratches seemingly self-manifesting through the course of our testing. The company will soon offer a range of colors for those with a bit of patience, but we'd stick with the raw carbon.

If all the import tuners can flaunt their carbon wings and other meaningless add-ons to their cars, why can't you show off the weave of your bike that's entirely made of the stuff?


We obviously can't wholeheartedly recommend that everyone go out and buy a YikeBike because it is, after all, a somewhat goofy and rather niche product that costs over $3,500. But, happy day for those who fit in that niche: someone who doesn't have a particularly long way to go; someone who wants an EV but has to charge it inside their home; someone who likes to support innovation; someone who, it must be said, has a fair amount of disposable income. If that's you, break out the credit card and get ready to have some fun.

And that niche will be expanding a bit soon, with extra battery packs that will extend the bike's range and turn it into more of a practical commuter. Even then the YikeBike won't fit into the lives of an awful lot of people, and we can't help feeling intense jealously toward those for whom it does.

First marine wilderness in continental U.S. is designated

The U.S. Interior secretary refuses to extend a permit for a commercial oyster farm operating in Point Reyes National Seashore. Sen. Dianne Feinstein had championed the business.print

Oyster farm
Drakes Bay Oyster Co. worker Jorge Mata carries strings of the shellfish at the farm, which operates in the Point Reyes National Seashore. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The federal government cleared the way Thursday for waters off the Northern California coast to become the first marine wilderness in the continental United States, ending a contentious political battle that pitted a powerful U.S. senator against the National Park Service.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar settled the dispute by refusing to extend a permit for a commercial oyster farm operating in Point Reyes National Seashore. Congress designated the area as potential wilderness in 1976 but put that on hold until the farm's 40-year federal permit ended.

As the expiration date approached, the farm became the center of a costly and acrimonious fight that dragged on more than four years, spawned federal investigations and cost taxpayers millions of dollars to underwrite scores of scientific reviews.

"I believe it is the right decision for Point Reyes National Seashore and for future generations who will enjoy this treasured landscape," Salazar said Thursday. The area includes Drakes Estero, an environmentally rich tidal region where explorer Sir Francis Drake is believed to have made landfall more than 400 years ago.
Salazar's decision drew a sharp response from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who had championed the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. in its fight with the government. Feinstein said in a statement that she was "extremely disappointed" with Salazar's decision.

She had argued that the National Park Service contorted scientific studies to make the case that oyster harvesting operations caused environmental harm to Drakes Estero, a dramatic coastal sweep of five bays in Marin County north of San Francisco.

"The National Park Service's review process has been flawed from the beginning with false and misleading science," her statement said. "The secretary's decision effectively puts this historic California oyster farm out of business. As a result, the farm will be forced to cease operations and 30 Californians will lose their jobs."
Feinstein had attached a rider to an appropriations bill giving Salazar the unusual prerogative to extend the farm's permit. The company was seeking a 10-year extension of its lease.

Salazar said he gave the matter serious consideration, including taking into account legal advice and park policies. He directed the park service to develop a jobs-training plan for the oyster company's employees and to work with the local community to assist them in finding employment.

The company will have 90 days to remove its racks and other property from park land and waters. When that occurs, the 2,500-acre Drakes Estero will be managed as wilderness, with prohibitions on motorized access to the waterway but allowances for snorkeling, kayaking and other recreation.

The new wilderness will become only the second marine protected area in the national park system and the first in the Lower 48 states. The only current marine wilderness is 46,000 acres in Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.

Environmental groups applauded the decision, which they lobbied for.

"We are ecstatic that this ecological treasure will be forever protected as marine wilderness," said Amy Trainer, executive director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin.

The heart of the debate is an agreement that Kevin Lunny and his family inherited when they took over a failing oyster operation in the park in 2004. That lease with the park service stipulated that the business would cease operations in 2012.

Kevin Lunny has from the beginning sought to stay on the property and continue harvesting oysters. His farm has an extensive record of violating state and federal agreements and permits. The California Coastal Commission has fined the farm for various violations, issued two cease and desist orders and repeatedly requested that the Lunnys acquire a coastal development permit.

The state agency initiated another enforcement action against the farm earlier this month.
Lunny could not be reached for comment.

The farm's mariculture operation has found support among west Marin County's advocates for sustainable agriculture, who agreed with Lunny that federal and state agencies were unfairly hounding his operation.
His travails have caused alarm among the historic cattle and dairy ranches that operate within the national seashore in a designated pastoral zone. Park officials have repeatedly said they have no intention of curtailing ranching operations, and Salazar echoed that, adding that he wished to extend the terms of the ranch leases from 10 to 20 years.
The Lunny family also has a cattle operation in the park.,0,6358160.story

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range

2012 Bait Trap Gather Video (may take several seconds to load)

Click here for full-screen download (larger file size).

News and Information

Starman, a stallion of the Pryor Mountain herd, is now back within the wild horse range boundary after wandering outside of the range this past spring.

About the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range

A horse on the rangeMontana is home to only one herd of wild horses, located in the Pryor Mountains south of Billings along the Montana-Wyoming border. There are no wild horse herds in the Dakotas. 
For more than a century, the Pryor Mountains have been home to free-roaming bands of wild horses.  In 1968, Interior Secretary Stewart Udall set aside 31,000 acres in the Pryor Mountains as a public range for the wild horses living there. Subsequent to Udall's order, the passage of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act in 1971 allowed for expansion of the range to areas where horses were "presently found."

The Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range is unique in both its setting and for the wild horses that inhabit it.  Many of the horses have primitive striping on their backs, withers and legs, and are reputed to be descendents of "colonial" Spanish horses.

To assist in educating the public about the Pryor Mountain wild horse herd, the BLM partners with the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center located in Lovell, Wyoming.  For more information about the center, please click here .

Friday, November 30, 2012

The awe of Huell Howser

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Central Valley residents tire of receiving L.A.'s urban waste

L.A. officials say the daily truck caravan of unpleasant cargo is an essential step toward recycling tons of waste and turning it into compost and fertilizer in California's vast agrarian middle.

Filtering the trash at Hyperion plant

Ameen Uddin removes trash that has been separated from incoming wastewater at the Hyperion Sewage Treatment Plant near Los Angeles International Airport. In 2000, the city of L.A. bought 4,600 acres in Kern County, just off Interstate 5 near Taft, and has been sending up more than 20 truckloads a day of “wet cake” from the Hyperion facility. (Gary Friedman, Los Angeles Times /
ARVIN, Calif. — Every day, the trucks rumble into the Central Valley by the dozens, chugging over the Grapevine loaded with lawn clippings from Beverly Hills, sewage sludge from Los Angeles and rotting yogurt and vegetables from around Southern California.

Los Angeles officials and others say the daily caravan is an essential step toward recycling thousands of tons of urban waste and turning it into compost and fertilizer in California's vast agrarian middle. But increasingly, residents of the Central Valley and other rural areas object to the stream of semis and their unpleasant cargo.
"You guys in Los Angeles are dumping all your waste on us," said Sarah Sharpe, the environmental health program director at Fresno Metro Ministry, a nonprofit group that advocates for environmental justice. "We just don't think it's fair."

Simmering for more than a decade, the issue has flared up in the last year after two young workers died from exposure to toxic fumes at one of the state's largest composting operations in Kern County. Community Recycling & Resource Recovery's facility outside Arvin was full of yard waste from Los Angeles, and had also been under fire for allegedly putting plastic on fields in violation of local land use rules.

Kern County's supervisors ordered the operation shut, setting off a legal battle between the county and the operator.

Thirty-nine of California's 58 counties shipped more than 5% of their trash and recycling across county lines last year. Much of it goes to the Central Valley, which has the vast acreage to handle it. A Times analysis of state recycling data shows that more than 60% of all non-agricultural compost in the state winds up in the region, which is home to just 14% of the population.

Processing waste regionally is the only way cities can meet state goals that call for diverting half their waste away from landfills, state and metropolitan officials say. There is not enough space in urban centers like San Francisco and Los Angeles, nor is there a large market there for compost.

But some officials said that when the waste gets to rural areas, recycling facilities don't always sufficiently protect the environment and neighbors' quality of life.

"A lot of these disposal facilities don't want to use the most modern technology because it costs more," said Kern County's planning director, Lorelei Oviatt. "Our residents want to know why they have to endure the impacts merely to save money for some people in Los Angeles."

The debate is only expected to escalate: A law approved last year calls for the state to aim to recycle or otherwise reduce 75% of its waste by 2020. Los Angeles has vowed to go even further, expanding recycling so much that the city will be "zero waste" by 2025.
One of the most bitter battles in California is over sludge, the batter-like material left over after treatment plants finish cleaning and draining what is flushed down the toilet or washed down the sink.
Sludge used to get dumped in the ocean — but that was banned in the 1980s because of concerns about pollution.
In 2000, the city of Los Angeles bought 4,600 acres in Kern County, just off Interstate 5 near Taft, and has been sending up more than 20 truckloads a day of "wet cake" from the Hyperion Sewage Treatment Plant near LAX.
Private companies in Kern County are also in the business, including the South Kern Industrial Center, operated by Synagro and Liberty Composting, both permitted to take hundreds of thousands of tons a year, according to officials at the regional waterboard.
Los Angeles officials and those at major wastewater treatment plants in the state say that spreading such "biosolids" on land or composting it as fertilizer is good for the city and good for the farm. They note that sludge is heated to 131 degrees for several days until harmful bacteria and pathogens are destroyed or removed.
Los Angeles' land in Kern County features a red barn and a sign: "Green Acres Farm." The city's website proudly describes the corn, alfalfa and oats that are grown there.
"To me, it's completing a circle, putting back to the earth what came from it, and doing it very protectively and beneficially," said Greg Kester, biosolids program manager for the California Assn. of Sanitation Agencies. "Biosolids do enrich the soil in Kern County."
Kern County officials don't see it that way. They fear groundwater will be contaminated and that metals and pharmaceuticals will leach into the soil.
Most experts say recycled products such as sludge and compost are safe if handled properly. But Kern County officials filed court declarations from scientists who are skeptical. Portland State University engineer Gwynn Johnson, for instance, said research shows that biosolids contain metals, antibiotics and flame retardants, and that more study is needed to determine the implications for "human health and the environment.",0,69011.story

Saturday, November 24, 2012

How Safe Are America's 2.5 Million Miles of Pipelines?

The nation's aging oil pipelines are roughly 70 times safer than trucks when it comes to transporting fuel. But when a pipeline does fail, the consequences can be catastrophic
Hazardous liquid lines in red, gas transmission lines in blue. Image: Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration

At 6:11 p.m. on September 6, 2010, San Bruno, Calif. 911 received an urgent call. A gas station had just exploded and a fire with flames reaching 300 feet was raging through the neighborhood. The explosion was so large that residents suspected an airplane crash. But the real culprit was found underground: a ruptured pipeline spewing natural gas caused a blast that left behind a 72 foot long crater, killed eight people, and injured more than fifty.
Over 2,000 miles away in Michigan, workers were still cleaning up another pipeline accident, which spilled 840,000 gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River in 2010. Estimated to cost $800 million, the accident is the most expensive pipeline spill in U.S. history.
Over the last few years a series of incidents have brought pipeline safety to national – and presidential – attention. As Obama begins his second term he will likely make a key decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed pipeline extension to transport crude from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
The administration first delayed the permit for the pipeline on environmental grounds, but has left the door open to future proposals for Keystone's northern route. Construction on the southern route is already underway, sparking fierce opposition from some landowners and environmentalists.
The problem, protesters say, is that any route will pose hazards to the public. While pipeline operator TransCanada has declared that Keystone will be the safest pipeline ever built in North America, critics are skeptical.
"It's inevitable that as pipelines age, as they are exposed to the elements, eventually they are going to spill," said Tony Iallonardo of the National Wildlife Federation. "They're ticking time bombs."
Critics of the Keystone proposal point to the hundreds of pipeline accidents that occur every year. They charge that system wide, antiquated pipes, minimal oversight and inadequate precautions put the public and the environment at increasing risk. Pipeline operators point to billions of dollars spent on new technologies and a gradual improvement over the last two decades as proof of their commitment to safety.

Read more:

Recycling vs. Convenience: What Are You Doing With Your E-Waste?

We all have managed to stockpile an old computer or two, maybe a couple of corded phones or even a two hundred pound TV set from 1985 that you simply don’t know what to do with. As your electronic waste, or e-waste accumulates in your garage collecting dust you decide it’s finally time to take action. You can either take everything to your local recycling facility, which is half an hour away and only open for two hours on the first Saturday of the month or you can throw the pieces out with your trash.

You know throwing the e-waste away is not the proper way to dispose of your outdated technology, but the convenient solution would be to cross your fingers and hope the garbage truck takes the pieces one by one.
Even though awareness about electronics recycling and available recycling locations is increasing, according to a study released from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), consumers still say convenience is a determining factor as to whether or not they recycle their electronic waste.

According to the CE Recycling and Reuse 2012 Edition study, six in ten consumer electronic owners removed at least one device from their homes in the last year, with 48% donating the device for reuse and 26% choosing to recycle. The other twelve percent put their electronic devices in the trash citing that it was the most convenient option. Convenience can take into account time, resources, and cost, which plays heavily on how consumers decide to get rid of waste.

While programs at individual companies and retailers are trying to make it easier for consumers to recycle their products, it is still left up to the consumer to make the final decision of how to dispose of their unwanted materials.

The study also revealed that nine in ten consumers believe it's important to recycle their electronic devices and 63% of consumers know where to recycle them. This is very promising as to the future of how we handle our e-waste.

Walter Alcorn, vice president of CEA's environmental affairs and industry sustainability department stated: "The marked increase in consumer awareness of how and where to recycle their electronics illustrates the progress our industry has made on this issue."

While there have been some concerns as to what really happens to e-waste once it is taken to a facility, most of the products can be resold or dismantled for parts. Regardless of what happens next, this option is better than throwing e-waste away with your regular trash where the products have the potential to leach heavy metals into landfills and incinerator ash.

As technology continues to change and we become increasing dependent on our electronic devices, e-waste will only continue to grow. That's why it is important to start making a better effort to get your e-waste to an accredited recycling facility and start recycling now!

Read more at The Green Economy.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Love captures wandering hippo, Laguna Beach 1967

Love captures wandering hippo

Love captures wandering hippo

March 27, 1967: Herman, a wandering hippopotamus, obediently leaves a Laguna Beach rancher’s pond under encouragement of his elephant friend Lisa, and the rancher’s dog, Challenger.

The next morning,

His lost weekend over, Herman came staggering back to the little woman Monday. He was none the worse for his binge, except for a big head.
But then, being a hippopotamus, Herman always has had a big head.

The 1,600-pound hippo had been missing since Friday night, when he wandered away from a beachfront cage in Huntington Beach, where he was participating in a benefit carnival.

Fifteen miles to the south is the Thoroughbred Sea Spa, a health resort for race horses.
At about 5:30 a.m. Monday, the owner of the Laguna Beach ranch, Bryon Hendricks, let his dog out for some morning exercise. Minutes later the animal, whose name is Challenger, came charging back in, barking as if he had seen a burglar.

In a way he had. Outside Hendricks’ trailer, munching on a bale of hay, stood Herman.
The 4-year-old hippo took one look at Hendricks and made a beeline, or whatever, for a circular shaped saltwater pool which the horses generally use.

His owner, Gene Holter, was summoned from Huntington Beach.

While waiting for Herman to surface, Holter speculated that his animal had probably used the Pacific Ocean to make most of the trip.

“He can swim like a fish,” Holter said. “But I was worried that a shark might attack him.”
Holter’s plan was to rope the beast. Herman, however, remained submerged most of the time in the 9 feet of water.

At about 9 a.m., on the hippothesis that love conquers all, Lisa was led into action. Lisa happens to be a four-year-old elephant. She also happens to be Herman’s best friend.

Holter acquired them both as babies, Herman from Africa, Lisa from India. “I had only one heated stall, so I put them in together,” he said. “They have been inseparable ever since.”
The owner felt the hippo would come out of the pool voluntarily once he saw or heard his one and only. Lisa walked to the edge of the water.

“Speak, Lisa!” she was implored. “Come on, Lisa, speak!”
The elephant gave Holter a jaundiced glare and managed a trumpet.

Herman remained submerged.

Three times Lisa was goaded into the chilly water. Three times she set speed records in getting out.
But just when everyone was despairing, up popped Herman’s head. Upon sighting it, Lisa needed no encouragement to plunge into the pool.
As the crowd of onlookers cheered, the two animals frolicked in the water–a gargantuan love-in.
Without any urging from Holter, the elephant came plodding out of the pool. The hippo obediently followed.

In tandem they marched toward Holter’s van, mounted a ramp and disappeared inside. Herman had a little explaining to do.

The two photo combo above, by staff photographer Frank Q. Brown, accompanied Larsen’s story in the March 28, 1967 Los Angeles Times.

Friday, November 16, 2012

organic farming and teaching in the Sacramento Valley

California's Radioactive Waste Shipped To Idaho Landfill By Air Force

By Katharine Mieszkowski and Matt Smith

After California regulators refused to allow the U.S. Air Force to label residue from radioactive aircraft instruments as "naturally occurring" - declaring it unsuitable for a Bakersfield-area dump - the military turned to Idaho with the same story.

There, military officials met with success. The Air Force is now sending radioactive waste from Sacramento County's McClellan Air Force Base to a Grand View, Idaho, hazardous waste landfill.

This solution involved a bit of legal semantics rejected in California despite 10 months of Air Force lobbying: The military claimed radium dust left over from glow-in-the-dark aircraft instruments actually was naturally occurring, putting it the same relatively lax regulatory category as mine tailings, according to government memos obtained by California Watch through a public records request.

Larry Morgan, a health physicist with the California Department of Public Health, disagreed with that characterization. Radioactive paint does not "meet the definition" of naturally occurring waste, he wrote in a September 2011 memo.

The Idaho facility's permit allows it to accept materials defined as natural without notifying state regulators, leaving the state's hazardous waste manager in the dark.

Visit The Bay Citizen to read the rest of this story.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

California's Iraq and Afghanistan war dead remembered

Veterans Day is particularly poignant for the families and friends of California's more than 700 who made the ultimate sacrifice in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Chase Marta

 Chase Marta, 24, of Yuba City was one of more than 40 California service members who have died in the line of duty since last Veterans Day. He was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. (Handout)

They came from Walker Basin, a speck of a community at the edge of the Sequoia National Forest. From the farm town of Reedley, where a barber gives boys joining the military free haircuts before they ship out.
They came from San Francisco. Los Angeles. San Diego.

When they died, photos went up on post office walls in their hometowns. On Veterans Day, there are parades and charity golf tournaments. Buddies gather at graves to drink to the ones who are gone.
In the 11 years since the wars began in Iraq and Afghanistan, 725 service members from California have been killed.

As all veterans are honored, the fallen are remembered

Many died young — 41% were not yet 22. Sixty-three were still teenagers.

They were fun-loving singles. Forty-seven were engaged. They were married, leaving behind 307 wives and husbands. They had children — 432 sons and daughters.

Forty of their obituaries noted that the Sept. 11 attacks spurred them to join up. Some were in elementary school when they watched the Twin Towers fall.

The scope of their loss can't be measured at one point in time. Life moves on, the wars are winding down. But towns, families and individual lives continue to be shaped by their absence.

Lately, 9-year-old Naomi Izabella Johnson has been asking a lot of questions about her father, Allen Johnson, a Special Forces medical sergeant from Los Molinos who was killed on foot-combat patrol in Khanaqin, Afghanistan, in 2005.

What was his favorite color? School subject? Animal? Book? Did he like mashed potatoes?
"It helps me for when I try to imagine him," she said.

Two months ago, her 10-year-old brother, Joshua, started crying inconsolably.

"What's wrong?" his mother, Eunice Johnson, recalled asking.

"I'm starting to forget — sometimes I can't see Daddy's face."

In Yuba City, Taylor Silva, 21, has been spending some time alone. Last week marked six months since her fiance, Chase Marta, 24, was killed by a roadside bomb in the Ghazni province of Afghanistan. He was one of more than 40 California service members to have died in the line of duty since last Veterans Day.
"I know his family and best friend have it just as hard. But we're all being a little quiet to each other because we're all a reminder to each other. His mom can't see me without crying," Silva said.

Seventeen women from California have been killed in the wars.

Hannah Gunterman McKinney of Redlands had told her father that the Army wouldn't send a new mother to Iraq. But she was deployed when her son, Todd Avery Gunterman, was just 1. Ten months later, in 2006, she was run over by a Humvee in Taji, north of Baghdad. She was 20.

She had joined the military as a way to earn money to go to fashion school. She reenlisted because she was a single mother and wanted to give her son financial stability. Now her parents are raising Todd Avery.,0,6194922.story

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Food Waste Recycling

Sending our rubbish to landfill sites continues to be a major topic for debate as proposals for wind farms and incinerators are becoming more common.

At present, the Local Government Association estimates that we offload twice as much rubbish into landfill sites than Germany does, although Germany has a larger population. Due to the fact that land available for landfill sites is running out, pressure from Brussels and Westminster is making the use of these sites more expensive, which in turn is increasing the pressure to recycle our waste.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman has introduced legislative changes aimed to cut down the amount of rubbish that goes to landfill and improve recycling. A major part of the change is the prevention of food waste heading to landfill. Bespoke vehicles that utilize anaerobic digestion provide a totally green service that also offers a viable environmental and economic waste solution. Such a service is able to handle packed and naked food waste, and has proved to be a great success working with 68 Waitrose stores throughout the UK.

Why recycle your food waste? 

Methane is produced by decomposing food waste, and it is in actual fact 22 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide. Instead of letting food break down in this way, it can be converted into biogas that generates electricity through anaerobic digestion (AD). The only by-product produced through AD is a nutrient rich liquid fertilizer.
  • Methane from food waste is 22 times more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide.
  • Recycling food waste generates renewable energy, so is even better than carbon neutral.
  • 40 percent of the 14million tonnes of food waste generated in UK each year goes to landfill.
  • By using AD to process food waste we are preventing 905kg of carbon emissions per tonne of waste entering the atmosphere.
  • Government’s waste policy review announces plans to support development of AD technology in the UK.
What is AD?
Anaerobic digestion (AD) breaks down organic matter using naturally occurring microorganisms. This natural biological process results in the production of a valuable fertilizer as a by-product of producing biogas, a sustainable source of energy.  To convert the biogas into electricity and heat a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) engine is used. Compared to sending waste food to landfill AD processing prevents 905kg of carbon per tonne of food waste being released into the atmosphere.
It is becoming increasingly important that we consider not just how to reduce the waste we create, but also how we can use it, too. Waste is a resource, and when there is scarcity of resources, it is more important than ever to consider sustainability through a broader spectrum of material use.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Amazing Facts About Pelicans

PelicansPhoto: Wayne Butterworth
Earth’s oceans and waterways wouldn’t be the same without the amazing birds that wing so gracefully over water and crashing waves. Pelicans are fascinating creatures. Not only are they gigantic, with wingspans as large as 10 feet, but they can also soar up to heights of 10,000 feet on thermals!
There are eight living species of pelicans in the world. What’s more, these majestic birds inhabit every continent except Antarctica, from southern-lying Tasmania all the way up to Western Canada. Most pelicans live in warm regions, around coasts and river estuaries, where they feed on everything from fish and crustaceans to tadpoles and turtles. If they’re really hungry and desperate, they might even drown and swallow a seagull!

When it eats, the pelican catches prey in its large gular sack, squeezes the water out the side of its bill, moves the food until it is facing head-down in its throat, and swallows.


Pelican bills are actually able to sense creatures underwater, which is handy if the water is murky and the birds can’t see. Most pelicans will fish in groups. They beat the water with their wings to drive fish into the shallows and then scoop them up with their bills. A hook on their upper mandibles helps them grip slippery food – and sometimes even allows them to nab a large fish, toss it into the air, and swallow it in one gulp!


Although pelicans are some of the heaviest flying birds, each bird’s skeleton only amounts to one tenth of its total body weight – which in some cases can be over 30lbs! Air sacs in their bones give them extra buoyancy. And they also have air sacs beneath the skin on their throat, chest and beneath their wings which are connected to their respiratory system.

Aside from making the birds lighter and helping them float in water, the air sacs also improve flight aerodynamics by smoothing and stiffening the feathers across the abdomen and helping to cushion the impact when they dive for fish.


When pelicans are courting, they open and close their bills to make their gular sacks ripple, strut around, and toss sticks and dried fish up into the air. Their bills and pouches also change color. For example, an Australian’s pelican’s pouch will turn bright pink, the throat turns yellow, and parts of the bill turn bright blue. Different species of pelicans display different color changes, but they are all vivid and beautiful. Both males and females help incubate the eggs (usually 1-3) by standing on them with their completely webbed feet.


Although there’s a lot more that could be said about pelicans, these facts should give anyone a new appreciation for these huge-billed water birds. Fortunately, most pelicans are not endangered, and we can enjoy watching them swoop majestically over the world’s oceans.


organic farming and teaching in the Sacramento Valley

Craig McNamara, the son of former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, balances public policy work with organic farming and teaching in the Sacramento Valley.

Craig McNamara

Craig McNamara, whose father was Defense secretary during the Vietnam War, balances public service and organic farming in the Sacramento Valley. (Marc Lifsher, Los Angeles Times / October 3, 2012)


The gig: Craig McNamara is a sustainable farming expert, organic walnut farmer in the Sacramento Valley town of Winters, founder of the nonprofit Center for Land-Based Learning and the California Farm Academy, and president of the state Board of Food and Agriculture, which advises state officials on farming policies.

Organic food basket: At his Sierra Orchards, Craig McNamara makes extensive use of pro-environment and conservation techniques as he grows 450 acres of organic walnuts, presses organic olive oil from 150 trees that are more than a century old and helps his son raise hops for a local craft beer. The Center for Land-Based Learning and the California Farm Academy are based at his farm, on the bank of Putah Creek near the Solano-Yolo county line.

Techniques: "We try to incorporate sustainability into all our actions," said McNamara, so that the farm supports "healthy people, a healthy planet and a healthy profit." He relies on solar power to run water pumps, sediment traps to reduce fertilizer runoff into streams and the underground aquifer, "green" composting that doesn't depend on animal manure and pollination with native bees.

Honors: His environmental work earned him the 2012 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award, the 2007 Leopold Conservation Award and other honors. He has served on the state Board of Food and Agriculture since 2002. Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown appointed him board president.

Politics and the farm: McNamara has managed to find a balance among making a living as a farmer, teaching about the importance of farming and, as a high-level appointee, helping bring experience and expertise to public policy on water, labor, exports and other issues in the country's richest agricultural state.

Roots and upbringing: He grew up in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Washington, D.C., in the shadow of his late father, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, considered the architect of the Vietnam War. In high school, Craig McNamara broke with his father over the war. His mother, Margaret, was a literacy pioneer who started the Reading Is Fundamental program.

Latin America travels: McNamara's interest in agriculture developed after he dropped out of Stanford University and traveled around Latin America for two years. On his way to Tierra del Fuego at the southernmost tip of South America, he worked on peasant farms and came to understand "the importance of sustainable agriculture and how political food is."

Back to the land: McNamara came to the Sacramento Valley, where he fell in love with the flat, fertile soil and the farms, ranches and orchards. He received a degree in plant and soil science from UC Davis in 1976 and struggled for three years to run a 60-acre garden that supplied fresh produce to San Francisco restaurants. "It broke me financially and it broke me physically," he said. He switched to walnuts, he said, because they are high value, harvested once a year, healthful and not highly perishable.

Nuclear family: McNamara has been married for 30 years to his wife, Julie, an entomologist he met at UC Davis. They have two sons — Graham, 28, who works for a software company in San Francisco, and Sean, 25, who returned to the farm 18 months ago to grow hops. A daughter, Emily, 20, is a student at Brown University.

Young farmers: The California Farm Academy just graduated its first class of 20 young farmers from its six-month program. The center and academy are busy places thanks to a growing interest among young people in organic farming, farmers markets and the slow-food movement, he said. "It's a perfect wave, a wholesome wave," McNamara said. "Millennials understand the importance of agriculture and food and this vital connection to nature." California must attract more young farmers, he said, or risk losing valuable agricultural land from production.

Agricultural gold: As an educator, McNamara hopes that training will instill among students the same devotion to the land that the pioneers of the Sacramento Valley showed when they settled there after the Gold Rush. "People then were so dedicated, so courageous and so adaptable," he said. "The same character exists today.",0,1752156.story

Friday, October 12, 2012

Household Hazardous Waste

Just Add Water

Cellphones. Cameras. Computers. What do these items have in common (besides all starting with the letter C)? They are all electronic devices that tend to be replaced every few years, due to the “need” to replace them with newer technology (or longevity/quality issues). According to a study by the EPA, 438 million new electronics were sold in the USA in 2009. That’s a lot of devices, many which will be replaced within a few years.

What happens to them once their “useful” life is over?

The fate of “dead” electronics is not pretty. The same study by the EPA found that only 25% of electronics end up being recycled. The rest are either put into storage, because their owners don’t know what to do with them, or are thrown out in the trash and condemned to a very long life in the land fill.

But there is good news. A team of scientists from the University of Illinois, Tufts University, and Northwestern University are working together to create biodegradable electronics technology which they call “Transient Electronic Systems”.

Transient electronic systems are made from ultra thin sheers of silicon that can dissolve when immersed in bio fluids like water. Used with soluble conductors and dielectrics, the transient electronic systems can be made into a wide range of electronic components. The transient electronic systems are then encapsulated in silk, which is responsible for the rate of dissolution of the device.

Transient electronic systems will not only have an impact on reducing electronic waste but will also be useful for the medical field and for environmental monitoring. Transient electronic systems could be used as medical implants that are eventually absorbed into the body or as environmental sensors that leave no ecological impact.

I look forward to transient electronics hitting the consumer market and seeing what innovations are attached to them.

Broken Electronics via Shutterstock

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Recycle: 80 Polar Bears Throng Village in Search of Whale

HVAC boot cleared of Asbestos in Los Angeles