May 30, 2013

The Return of the Elk to the East: Kentucky Most Prominently, But Now Little Pockets Everywhere

go to minute 2:45 if you want to get to the point...
I'm not usually an emotional guy, but somehow those 45 or so seconds of footage bring me close to tears. This entry might be the one that most affects me on a personal level, since it affects so fundamentally and dramatically a place I love so much and know so well, the Eastern United States, and the Appalachian Mountains.
When I saw the above video,while learning about a release of Elk in Missouri that were brought from this wildly successful Kentucky herd, first released in 1997, I felt like I was learning about a long lost uncle as an adult, as if something that had been missing from me, and from how I understood my world on some emotional level, was being returned, even though I had never known it was gone.
Not to play into the myth of a pristine pre-Colombian world, but I for years was left non-plussed by the legions of white tailed deer that populated my world, by the eastward moving Coyotes that were the only predators left, as they invaded previously unknown territories for them to pick off the edges of the weird kind of predator-less garden patch that was the East.
I grew up suspecting but never knowing that that Eastern ecosystem had indeed been a wilder and much more complex one, and watching this video, after an accidental run in with an article about the Missouri effort, was big for me.

May 19, 2013

The Dark Sky Movement: Not all Polution is Matter, but it Still Matters!
In college I was once in a desert field ecology class (distribution requirements.. it was not my major.. now I kind of wish it was), and I found myself bumping through Tuscon with a van full of stinky but amiable Co-Ed's late one night. Somehow it left an impression on me that Tuscon felt surprisingly small for the population I knew it to have, kind of, well, natural... and I remember someone mentioning or knowing there were some observatories up on Kit Carson Mountain, so I gazed up and had a look as we drove by on what must have been good ol' I-10. I never knew much about astronomy, but my dad had been in the Navy, and knew how to navigate by the stars, had even studied it in college. He used to occasionally teach me a constellation or two. Given this small family preoccupation, I liked to pick out little details like knowing the observatory was there, and file them away.
Fast forward a few years, and I am a Municipal official of sorts (everyone makes mistakes in life!), and something crosses my desk about a new type of Light Fixture that the state government wants me to set up a demonstration project for. I have to find a place to put something like 7 so called "Full Cut Off Lighting Fixtures". There was so much jargon in government that my brain took it in stride (it's a street lamp!), since I was learning about everything from the constitutional law to street plows. I read the description that the state legislature had passed,  something kind of exotic and progressive called Dark Sky Legislation, to mitigate a so called Light Pollution Phenomenon ("What won't they think of up in the capitol! Good for them, my brothers in utopic striving!" I thought to myself, in all earnestness.), and I think my brain was about to move on to other business as I moved further down the description, when I found the allegation that flooding street lamps have not only social consequences, but health consequences as well, and that people sleeping in rooms with too much light from street lamps can suffer from hormonal imbalances, mental health issues, and even circadian rhythms and menstrual cycle disturbances, and that it can be a contributing cause or the cause of their cancers and other infirmities directly or indirectly. Realizing that I work in politics, it might make sense that I fixed on one important thing: this might be something else to blame my girlfriend's moodiness on when I am in the doghouse again.. hot dog!

May 10, 2013

Hope is in the Air: What Makes The Boeing Dreamliner Such a Big Step for the Environment

Check this out:
The plane you see taking off is made with Carbon Fiber, from a kit based on the design of the Piper Cub, the famous bush plane, and perhaps smallest of what would be considered a traditional airplane. They usually weigh about 900 pounds. This one weights 300 less because of the difference in weight between carbon fiber and steel or aluminum. The plane landing likely is Carbon Fiber too. A friend of mine once took third place in this competition landing in about 130 feet with a plane, a Maule, that was handicapped for being slightly larger, but I can tell you that people were shocked when this thing took off in 17 feet in 2007, since even a normal cub souped up like a top fuel racer would still need 50 feet to take off.. not 17. In fact, the voice you hear muttering "Wow.. nice landing.. nice..." at the end is likely a buddy of mine, which I put together a few years ago. He was pretty astounded by what he saw there in 2007, as was the whole Alaska flying community. This carbon fiber thing was something big.
Fast forward 6 years to 2013, and it's been a tough few months for a low Carbon future in Aviation, specifically, for the Boeing Dreamliner, the biggest innovation in Commercial Aviation since the Concord, the airliner equivalent of that Cub, and the most fuel efficient Commercial Aircraft ever produced, 20% more efficient than any current competitors.