Blue Marble - June 2007

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Once-Common Birds In Dramatic Decline

| Thu Jun. 14, 2007 2:24 PM EDT

The National Audubon Society reports that populations of many of America's most familiar and beloved birds are in dangerous decline. Some have fallen more than 80 percent in the past 40 years—a direct result of the loss of habitat, including grasslands, healthy forests, and wetlands, from multiple environmental threats such as sprawl, energy development, and the spread of industrialized agriculture. The threats are now compounded and amplified by the escalating effects of global warming—as detailed in MoJo's current cover story.

"These are not rare or exotic birds we're talking about—these are the birds that visit our feeders and congregate at nearby lakes and seashores and yet they are disappearing day by day," said Audubon chair and former EPA administrator Carol Browner. "Their decline tells us we have serious work to do, from protecting local habitats to addressing the huge threats from global warming."

Audubon's assessment comes from 40 years of its citizen-led Christmas Bird Count's data and the Breeding Bird Survey. The following once-common species are among those hardest hit: Northern Bobwhites down 82 percent; Evening Grosbeaks down 78 percent; Northern Pintails down 78 percent; Greater Scaups down 75 percent; Eastern Meadowlarks down 71 percent; Common Terns down 70 percent; Snow Buntings down 64 percent; Rufous Hummingbirds down 58 percent; Whip-poor-wills down 57 percent; Little Blue Herons down 54 percent in the U.S.

Check out Audubon's suggestions on what individuals can do to help. --JULIA WHITTY

Moot Science

| Wed Jun. 13, 2007 6:31 PM EDT

A few headlines on studies that, somehow, don't seem to need study:

Daddies' girls choose men who look like their fathers

Patient Care Improves when Medical Residents Work Fewer Hours

Catastrophic Events Can Affect A Person's Sleep

The American Academy of Sleep Disorders is a treasure trove of research into the obvious, including "Sleep Disorders Highly Prevalent Among Police Officers," "Sleep Restriction Affects Children's Speech," "Children With Sleep Disorder Symptoms Are More Likely To Have Trouble Academically," "Sleep Deprivation Affects Airport Baggage Screeners' Ability To Detect Rare Targets" ... Yawn. --JULIA WHITTY

Logging Increased Wildfire Severity

| Mon Jun. 11, 2007 9:04 PM EDT

The Biscuit Fire of 2002 burned more far more severely in areas that had been salvage logged and replanted compared to similar areas that were also burned in a wildfire that was left to regenerate naturally. The new study from Oregon State University and the Pacific Northwest Research Station of the USDA Forest Service found that fire severity was 16 to 61 percent higher in logged and planted areas, compared to those that had burned severely and were left alone in a fire 15 years earlier. The study seems to debunk the working but untested hypothesis that salvage logging and replanting make fewer future wildfires. Hmm. Seems that trees, forests, and their atmosphere-scrubbing services might be happier without our [mis]management… --JULIA WHITTY

Environmental Fact of the Day

| Mon Jun. 11, 2007 5:21 PM EDT

suvs4.jpgAmerican drivers burn 380 million gallons of gas per day, up nearly 20 percent from a decade ago. American cars are less and less fuel efficient, and Americans are driving more—despite the increasingly absurd cost of gasoline. The average driver logged 15,000 miles last year (that's 3 trillion total miles of car travel). In 1985, the average driver covered less than 12,000 miles.

I didn't drive 15,000 miles last year and my ride is a Honda Civic, but I'm guilty of automobile addiction, too. Driving seems so easy and convenient, but when you factor in traffic, road rage, gas prices, and, uh, life on Earth as we know it, it's not really such a great deal, is it?

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Shift Happens

| Mon Jun. 11, 2007 4:16 PM EDT

Green Goods: Sprig Makes Consumerism (Almost) Guilt-Free

| Thu Jun. 7, 2007 7:08 PM EDT

HILO_gravyboat.jpgTo anyone who's browsed the "green" issues of Domino and Dwell, it's no surprise that you can now buy beautifully designed, environmentally sound products that don't involve hemp. For those with a modern aesthetic, the new Sprig.com offers a plethora of elegant glasses, aprons, drawer pulls, and other must-have accessories for the stylish environmentalist.

Sprig was created by the Washington Post folks, back in April, but its staff has a solid history working for high-end, consumerist glossies like Vanity Fair and In Style Home and it shows in the site's design. The pretty site easily guides shoppers through categories—home, food, fashion—featuring trendy goodies from eco-friendly manufacurers, who range from the large and well known (Muji, Pottery Barn) to the gal who hand sews vintage-style aprons in her home studio.

Another key feature of the site is that it tells you exactly why each product is "green" and allows you to search by how the product helps the environment, whether it's vegan, resource-saving, sustainable, or recycled. My faves: the classic, hand-made British 28" suitcase by GlobeTrotter and the Emma Gardner fair trade, hand-knotted rug with the gold/cerulean blossom pattern.

And even their tagline aims to make green consumerism fun: Sassy People are Into Green.

Weird Weather Watch: Cyclone in the Middle East

| Thu Jun. 7, 2007 3:29 PM EDT

oman_cyclone.jpg

Oman, a country in the Middle East, was hit by a cyclone (another name for a hurricane) yesterday, killing 23 and causing severe flooding and the evacuation of 60,000 residents. Although it was not an especially powerful storm in absolute terms, Cyclone Gonu was the strongest to hit Oman since record keeping began in 1945. That's because Oman is usually where storms limp off to die after wreaking havoc on Southeast Asia.

Iran will likely be hit today, but the storm has weakened significantly. Nonetheless, its threat to oil pipelines caused a spike in gas prices, which are already at record highs. These are the kind of ironies that global warming will continue to deliver—you get to chuckle at fossil-fueled climate change unsettling the oil market, but, in the end, high prices and 60,000 displaced people aren't really that funny.

Amnesty International Adopts Powerful Technology To Protect Darfur

| Thu Jun. 7, 2007 2:27 PM EDT

Amnesty International USA is using powerful satellite cameras to monitor highly vulnerable villages in war-torn Darfur. This is the first-ever technological capability by human rights defenders to track possible targets of attack, prevent new atrocities, and save lives, says Amnesty. The human rights organization is inviting ordinary people worldwide to help protect 12 villages by visiting the Eyes on Darfur project website (www.eyesondarfur.org) and put Sudanese President al-Bashir on notice that the areas are being watched around the clock. Check it out. --JULIA WHITTY