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perfect sunrise

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Bird watch: The spraying of pesticides at local park

This particular morning brought a nasty shock.   I was heading toward my favorite park seeking a new birding experience, when instead of the bell-like calls of black birds, I was greeted with a loud ruckus. This was unusual to say the least, coming directly from the little valley in which the pond is situated, and since it was early morning and I am not a morning person, the noise was as unwelcome as it was unusual.

When I came upon the top of the rise above the pond, the first thing that I noticed was men hard at work trimming grass  from around the trees which is a harmless activity, except of course for the noise.  The second thing I noticed was the men wearing white protective gear, who were in the process of spraying chemicals around the entire pond; an activity which is not without consequence or harm. 

I watched these men in white saturating the ground with toxins (most likely a  pesticide or herbicide) very close to the water's edge, shaking my head with disgust.  My disgust was centered around several things.  First of all neither of the two men spraying the chemicals were wearing masks, despite their white protective suits, and second I had not heard from any source that they would be spraying the park.  In fact there were no notices posted anywhere of the intention to do so.  The fact that the spraying was taking place so early in the morning hints that it was deemed unnecessary to do so.  This also indicates to me that the city, perhaps assuming that no one would be at the park at such an early hour, decided no one would be in danger of exposure.

If this is the case the city is wrong.  Not only was I at the park and have a habit of frequenting it regularly early in the morning, I am not the only person to do so.   In fact many people do, including kids heading off to school.  More importantly  the park is never empty of life, it is in fact  populated by a variety of water fowl, song birds, shore birds, and other wildlife.

So here is  where we come to the main reason for my disgust, which is that I doubt very much that the wildlife is ever considered by the city when it comes to the  spraying of chemicals to ensure the comfort of this city's human population.  People do not want to be bothered by mosquitoes, nor do they want undesirable plants growing and going to seed to be carried by the wind to their gardens, and then of course there is the need for a perfect lawn to run and play on.

Be that as it may, the fact remains that the wildlife that lives on, or visits frequently, mates and feeds at this pond is exposed to these chemicals.  I have noted that this year in particular has brought a larger variety of birds to this specific pond and I was delighted to see it so.  Now however, I kind of wish that this wasn't the case, because I know of course that they will come to harm in some manner from the chemicals being sprayed. Some of them may even die.

Notice how close to the water's edge the chemicals are being sprayed.  These chemicals seep into the ground and  water where the water fowl spend most of their time, and also coat the bushes, shrubs and other plants that grow next to the pond.  These same plants provide sustenance, or shelter for some, if not all the wildlife at this park and it's pond.   In the picture below you can see some of them grazing on the edge of the pond.

Some of the waterfowl feed both in the water and on the shore.  The American Coot is a perfect example to prove this fact, however, others feed exclusively in the water, below the surface. These are the Horned Grebe who have decided to grace the pond with their presence this year, as well as the Lesser Scaub and the Ruddy Duck.   Rabbits also regularly feed here on the grass and bushes.   I have seen Kingfishers, Merlins, Prairie Hawks and Herons frequent this pond, not to mention Tree Swallows and other wildlife. Some of these only stay for a few days and some make their summer home here.

What makes it worse for all these animals, is that the majority of the chemicals which have seeped into the ground on the land surrounding the pond will also eventually end up in the water after the next rainfall.  Water runs downhill after all, and the pond sits smack in the middle of the little valley that makes up this park. Worse still, because it is a pond, the water does not circulate so that the chemical concentration can be lowered and the risk decreased.  Instead rainfall  increases the levels of  exposure dangerously for the wildlife that is present, and serves to make their exposure to these chemical toxins constant.

Who knows precisely how the chemicals being sprayed at this park will affect these birds in the end, I certainly don't, however I do know that the smaller the body taking in the toxin, the more harmful the effects will be on that body and the longer the exposure the worse it gets.  Aside from  the fact that I have no wish to be exposed to a fresh dose of these chemicals, as I'm sure other people don't, I have the choice not to be, at least in this area and at this time. Therefore I was only exposed to them for a brief period, the wildlife present at the park will be exposed to it constantly throughout the day, or until it dissipates, at least from the air.

However, they will ingest it through the plants which absorb it, through the water, as well as eventually by the crustaceans and fish that live in the water who ingest it.  It will coat their feathers and feet, and their nostrils as they breathe it it.  I find myself  wondering now, having thought all this through, how often the park is sprayed, what the toxicity level is in this pond and how it will affect the newly hatched young of the wildlife living there this summer.  How will it affect those that are still in the egg unhatched?  This is the time of year when eggs are laid after all.

I have already noticed that this year there are fewer waterfowl babies on the pond.   In fact, of the half dozen or more newly hatched ducklings that I saw on the pond just last week, only one survives today.  This might just be a coincidence; however,  it is not at all typical of what I usually observe at this pond.  In previous  years there have been at least two or three females with six or more ducklings.  Many of these surviving to the  migratory season.  Last year there was even a brood of American Coot. 

As humans we know of the danger of chemical toxins.  The wildlife does not, they are innocent of any wrong doing, unless you consider living and breathing wrong, and yet they are punished and suffer physically from our actions. They do not know of the danger and so do not have the choice to fly off to safety, nor to protect their young by raising their family elsewhere.  But no one seems to care.  While it is true that most people who frequent the park admire, and even take delight in observing the wildlife, sadly once they leave the park the wildlife is forgotten.

Yet, we really should care and pay close attention to the health of this wildlife because, when all is said and done, what affects the wildlife also affects us.  The chemicals that are being sprayed about so carelessly have been proven to be very harmful to humans, especially children.  Parents often bring their children for a picnic to the park, they in turn then romp around in the grass, collecting the chemicals on their hands, clothing, footwear and in their nostrils, if not their mouths.  Some of these children even splash around in the water on the edge of  the pond.

While children are unlikely to eat the plants or drink the water at this pond, this fact still brings up the most interesting questions such as, are their parents aware of the danger?  Would they choose to take their children elsewhere if they knew?  Would they allow the spraying to continue, or would they try to prevent it so their children would be safe from harm?  There are other ways to keep down the weeds and protect us from mosquito populations after all, which work perfectly well.

Many people however live with the mistaken belief that the toxins being sprayed evaporate and dissipate within and few hours, after which they can cause no more harm and so they are not concerned.  The truth  is once the toxins are spread throughout an area, they do not magically disappear, they are moved around in the environment by nature until they end up pooling somewhere in concentrated amounts. Once this happens chances are slim that they won't end up in the nearest body, whether it be human or animal.

Unfortunately, it is the wildlife that is affected first and suffers the most, and should serve as a warning much in the same way that Canaries did when they were taken into coal mines to serve as warning signs for the miners to indicate when dangerous gases were present. Therefore someone should be monitoring the levels of toxins in the pond, as well as the number of newly hatched birds and investigating any decline in those numbers.  The point is, that in taking care to ensure that the wildlife we share our environment with stays healthy we also ensure our own health.


Update:  two days after I posted this article I discovered  two things:  1)  signs were posted at the park that it had been sprayed after the men were done  spraying the toxins  2)   The only baby duckling left on the pond at the time that it was sprayed is gone.  I couldn't spot it or it's mother even  though I circled  the pond several times and stayed for quite some time

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Save BioGems: Thank You: Put an End to Commercial Whaling

Save BioGems: Thank You: Put an End to Commercial Whaling

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Protecting the Earth: An example of leadership

Protecting the Earth, healing the Earth should be our number one priority at all time since the earth shelters and sustains us, sadly many of us fail to consider the needs of the earth in our pursuit of survival and comfort.  Yet this very pursuit is killing the earth.   Global warming needs to be addressed, acknowledged and acted upon immediately, on every level.  There is much you can do to help in your own home, yet there is an urgent need to speak up and let world leaders know that immediate and greater action is required on their part.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Episode 2: Footprints in the Sand - Episode Guide - The Series - One Ocean Online

Episode 2: Footprints in the Sand - Episode Guide - The Series - One Ocean Online

The ocean is vital to our survival, to understand this concept more completely we need scientists like David Suzuki to explain it  to us and then act on that understanding to help us manage our actions and preserve the  ocean.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

The effects of mining on the environment

When I was a teenager we moved to live in a small mining community in north western Ontario where my dad  had hired on at one of the mines. The beauty of  the landscape, as we traveled along the highway leading toward our new home inspired me to go exploring, something I hadn't done since I was a very small child in Germany. We arrived at our new home well after dark and so I didn't see the area of land immediately surrounding the town as you came off the highway.  At the time I had no knowledge of the impact of human activity on nature and wildlife, much less the impact of mining on the immediate environment.  So the sight of  the dead areas of land immediately surrounding the town had a profound effect on me, once I finally saw them.  We were out with new friends, my sister and I exploring.

These dead areas surrounding the town consisted of  tracts of exposed unhealthy looking soil of undefined color, drenched by an ugly rusty red liquid spread over it in small puddles and rivulets,  and sparsely populated by dead, downed, and rotting trees.  We also found the remains of  innocent victims, a bunny, and several dead birds.  It was a repelling experience; the land a horrific sight.  It looked to me just  like a very bad disease. I asked one of my new friends what was wrong with the land and he explained what he knew to be the cause. Mining, specifically, the waste left over from the means by which gold was processed. It had simply been dumped everywhere with great carelessness.  His explanation had a great deal of impact, and created in me a deep anger and long lasting sadness.  I also knew instinctively that this couldn't be good for people's health, if the land was already affected this badly and the wildlife dying, but at the time no one seemed to care.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

GMO's : What gives you the right to "play" with our food

After doing some more research on eating healthy and avoiding all unnatural "additions" to food, I came across some very distressing facts about our food that really pushes all my buttons.  My distress is such that my concern for the health and well being of future generations, as well as the protection of basic humans rights have increased along with my knowledge base on this topic.  It isn't that I am unfamiliar with Genetically  Modified foods (GMO), having discovered them this past year, it is the fact that after years of the consumptions of these foods by much of the population, we are only just now stumbling upon some very negative and dangerous health risks associated with them.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Another pet peeve: the hunt for healthy food

The simple act of eating should be an enjoyable, relaxing experience for everyone.  We all work hard for the food we eat and in many instances food is the only reward we might get for our hard work.  It should not be necessary to have to worry about our hard earned reward being enhanced with modifications and chemical toxins.   But nothing is sacred it seems these days, and so, we do truly have to worry. If you wish to stay healthy, not only is it necessary to read labels before you buy food to take home to your family table, but there is a phenomenal chance that you cannot trust the food source itself.  So now we are forced to go out of our way to find sources of "safe" food, because eating many types of  food can have serious, long lasting, and even deadly consequences for many people.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Environmental death by the truckload

At the warehouse where I work we are preparing for spring.   The seasonal department is  frantically setting up displays of gardening supplies.  Every day truck loads of supplies arrive, bearing seeds of all descriptions and tools.   It is quite a sight, and when you think about spring all manner of pleasant images pop into the mind.  Bright flowers, a clean and tidy home, home grown foods, a perfect yard, relaxation in sunshine etc., etc.  All very pleasant thoughts.  Unfortunately there is a black lining in this cloud of pleasing anticipation, because along with these types of supplies also arrives something very unhealthy and deadly for the environment, wildlife and humans alike.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Environment, deception and advertisisng

It always blows my mind how deceptive companies and businesses can be in their quest  to make money.  Especially through the medium of advertising.  It isn't bad enough words like biodegradable are added to product labels, which  at first sounds really good, but is only a word that makes the product sound earth friendly, when in fact in many instances the exact opposite is true.  Many things are biodegradable after all, that doesn't change the fact that they are bad for the environment.  Let's face it, advertising is specifically designed to persuade the consumer to buy a product, and it seems there are no rules that apply to advertising, with the sole exception that a company can't lie about  the performance of it's product, or it's ingredients.

Working where I do, it has come to my attention that recently many companies have taken to adding images of cute and cuddly baby animals to their product label.  Then I began to notice these images in their TV adds and on billboards, and even  their company logos.  While it is true that some companies have had images of, for example teddy bears gracing  their product labels for years, it seems recently many more companies have jumped on the bandwagon by adding images of baby ducks, polar bears, frogs, pandas and penguins etc to their company logos and product labels.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Environmental pet peeve

Twice now in the past eight years I  have found myself working for an employer that produces massive amounts of waste which ends up in the landfill and or anywhere else in the immediate environment. The first is a fast food chain based mostly in coffee, and the coffee cups they produce, though made from recycled paper, can be found just about anywhere once used.  Sometimes just walking along one block on a city street will allow you to find more than a dozen cups with their plastic lids carelessly discarded on the sidewalk, someone's lawn or on the street.  The particular franchise that I worked for did very little recycling.

Paper cups, plastic and glass bottles and packaging went right in with the rest of the garbage and quite often, even though machines were not in use, they were still left turned on to waste energy.  If this were an environmentally friendly company it would recycle all of the above, and could, being a fast food outlet also separate certain food waste for composting.  Coffee grinds are good for the garden for example and apparently acts as a deterrent to rabbits feasting on growing veggies, and could be donated to anyone with a garden and even to farmers.  Last but not least, it seems to me that it is a simple matter to turn off machines that are not in use.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

International Year of Biodiversity is not just a celebration, but a call to action

International Year of Biodiversity is not just a celebration, but a call to action

Environmental Messengers

What the environmental messengers around the globe are trying to get through to us is that this planet  we call earth is our pond.  It is our only pond.  As such taking  care of it must be a priority over everything else.   In taking care of this pond, we not only take care of ourselves but also our younger cousins: the birds, mammals, fish, reptiles and insects who share it with us.

We have forgotten one fundamental truth; that all things are connected in nature, therefore what affects one will eventually affect another.  We have unwittingly endangered both ourselves and our younger cousins through our actions; through our enthusiasm to beat nature at the survival game, and our subsequent, growing encroachment on all  the different habitats around the globe. This danger, you will see, if you take the time to look around, is very real and we need to take a step back and re-connect with what is truly important.