Friday, September 30, 2016

Persian Vegetable Frittata

(photo:  Goran Kosanovic/For The Washington Post)

Why eat low on the food chain?  Here's why.

Here's a great weeknight recipe that I found in the Washington Post (8/31/16).   Frittata with some different spices -- it tastes as good as it looks!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

More animal diversity in urban areas -- what's going on?

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Washington, University of Oregon, and the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle (and reported on in Conservation), found that aquatic environments in some urban areas seem to have more species diversity than similar environments in less urban areas.  The researchers used DNA analysis to come to this surprising conclusion.

When I read this report, I immediately thought to myself, "well, that's probably because they have more non-native invasive species in the urban areas", but the researchers concluded that non-native invasives aren't the source of the diversity.  I found this study very interesting, because I've studied butterfly diversity along an urban gradient and also had somewhat surprising results.  We'll have to continue to study urban environments to more fully understand impacts on species diversity!


Di Mauro, D., T. Dietz, and L. Rockwood.  2007.  Determining the Effect of Urbanization on Generalist Butterfly Species Diversity in Butterfly Gardens. Urban Ecosystems.

Kelly RP et al. "Genetic signatures of ecological diversity along an urbanization gradient"  PeerJ. 2016.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Celebrities doing green stuff -- Tom Lalampaa

OK, maybe Tom Lalampaa isn't a big celebrity, but he should be!  Mr. Lalampaa is the 2016 winner of the Bright Award, which recognizes "unheralded individuals" who have made major contributions to global sustainability.  Mr. Lalampaa is the chief programs officer for the Northern Rangelands Trust (photo credit: NRT), an organization established in 2004 to develop community conservancies that conserve natural resources.  This type of conservation uses the expertise of local people and demonstrates the benefits of conservation to their local communities. Here's what the Stanford News(9/26/16) reported from the nominating committee:

"No one better illustrates the future potential for Kenya and Africa than Tom Lalampaa," said nomination committee chair Barton H. "Buzz" Thompson Jr., the Robert E. Paradise Professor in Natural   "Through his work at the Northern Rangelands Trust, Tom has demonstrated the opportunity to promote economic development, sow peace among neighboring tribes and conserve Africa's tremendous wildlife, all at the same time.  Tom is an accomplished practitioner of the essential art of community-based conservation."  Read more about this inspiring Kenyan who's making waves in the conservation world!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Soup from the blender!

Why eat low on the food chain?  Here's why.

Fast blender soups seem to be making the rounds on the internet, and there's a good reason for it -- they're easy and tasty.  Here's the recipe for tomato soup that I made in the blender:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup habanero lime olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 slices of white bread, torn into pieces
  • 2 28 oz. cans of diced tomatoes, or the equivalent of chopped fresh tomatoes (I used fresh)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2-3 tsp (or 4) Old Bay seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender (split into two batches, if it doesn't fit in your blender).  Blend on "chop" for 15 seconds and then puree until smooth.
  2. Pour into saucepan and heat.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Million Dollar Duck

I love great storytelling whether it's a well-written novel, a story on the radio, or a professional storyteller.  But I think my favorite type of storytelling is the documentary.  Skilled filmmakers can take what might otherwise be a mundane topic and make it interesting, even exciting!

The filmmakers behind The Million Dollar Duck did exactly that -- they made the story of the national duck stamp an edge-of-your-seat movie about an art competition.  If you're not familiar with the duck stamp, it's an annual stamp that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife issues to raise money to support national wildlife refuges.  And raise money it does!  98 cents of every $1 spent on duck stamps goes directly into the national wildlife refuge system.  Since 1934, the duck stamp program has purchased more than 5.7 million acres of wetland habitat.  And it all starts with an art contest.

So here's your next movie night pick!  Pop some popcorn, make a milkshake and enjoy The Million Dollar Duck as it tracks the highly skilled artists who enter the competition each year.  It's definitely worth watching -- here's the trailer.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Happy Sea Otter Awareness Week!

It's Sea Otter Awareness Week, so let's re-run a post with some fun facts about sea otters!

I was born in Carmel, California, and the Monterey Bay area is always a favorite of mine.  This week's mammal comes from beautiful Monterey Bay -- it's the sea otter!  Did you know,

  • sea otters are the only marine mammal that doesn't use blubber to stay warm in the icy waters of the Pacific -- to stay warm, they have incredibly thick fur that traps air
  • sea otters are a keystone species in their habitat -- the role that they play impacts all the other species in the area
  • sea otter populations seem to be spreading (that's good news!) -- there was a recent sighting in southern California
  • sea otter mothers tie their babies into floating seaweed while they go looking for food, but there's always a plan B:

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Update on the Dakota Access Pipeline Controversy

There's been interesting news on the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy -- the tribes lost their lawsuit, but the departments of Justice, Army, and Interior have temporarily stopped construction pending a review of the environmental and cultural issues.  For more details, see this Washington Post article.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Meat-free Friday -- Pizza!

This week’s meat-free Friday recipe comes to us from Barbara Kingsolver in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: a Year of Food Life.    If you haven’t yet read this book, I highly recommend it.  Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors, and in this book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle Book Covershe investigates the practicality of eating entirely local food for one year.  Her family agrees to try to eat locally (from local farmers, as well as their own garden produce and meat) for one year, with the exception of one or two items that each person can choose at the beginning of the year (coffee was the big exception for Kingsolver’s family; my choice would have been my BIG glass of o.j. that gets the day started).  Kingsolver is very honest about what works and what doesn’t, and she includes helpful recipes that include seasonal ingredients.  Today, we’ll be using Ms. Kingsolver’s recipe for pizza crust – top it with whatever floats your boat, bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes, and enjoy!

Friday Night Pizza

(Makes two 12-inch pizzas)

Instructions1)  Dissolve the yeast into the warm water.  Add oil and salt to the mixture.
2)  Mix the flours and knead them into the liquid mixture.
3)  Let dough rise for 30 to 40 minutes.
4)  Once the dough has risen, divide it in half and roll out two
round 12 inch pizza crusts.  Using a spatula, slide the crusts onto well-
floured pans or baking stones and spread toppings.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Native Americans and Water

Continuing on our theme of water from the last post, let's take a look at two cases where the quality and quantity of clean water on Native American lands is threatened.

First, we'll look at the southwestern U.S.  The Colorado river flows over 2,300 km through seven U.S. states.  It provides water for 30 million people, or about 1/10 of the U.S. population, and it helps to irrigate 15% of U.S. crops.  The many dams along the river divide the water between various stakeholders.  Unfortunately, Native Americans are a group that did not receive substantial portions of this water when it was originally divided up.  Take a look at this CBS Sunday Morning piece about people living without access to water:

Currently, there's also a water protest happening in the northern part of the U.S.  Many tribes are protesting the 1,172 mile Dakota Access pipeline.  This pipeline runs through North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved the $3.8 billion pipeline that is currently under construction.  What's the problem?  The pipeline crosses the Missouri River one mile north of the reservation, which the tribes say could endanger their only source of water.  From the Washington Post, (Joe Heim, 9/7/16):  

"That river is the source of water for the reservation’s 8,000 residents. Any leak, tribal leaders argue, would do immediate and irreparable harm. And tribal leaders point to what they see as a double standard, saying that the pipeline was originally planned to cross the Missouri north of Bismarck, the state capital, but was rerouted because of powerful opposition that did not want a threat to the water supply there.

The tribe says it also is fighting the pipeline’s path because even though it does not cross the reservation, it does traverse sacred territory taken away from the tribe in a series of treaties that were forced upon it over the past 150 years."

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Hidden waters

You step into your shower, let the water splash on your face, and then remember not to linger too long -- you don't want to waste water.  When you brush your teeth, you're always vigilant about turning off the tap while brushing.  You use an energy-efficient dishwasher, rather than hand-washing the dishes.  You've even installed a low-flow toilet in your home.

But what about "virtual water"?  Virtual water is water that's not consumed, rather it's used to produce food and other products.  The U.S. exports approximately 1/3 of the freshwater it uses (and we use about 100 gallons/day/person) as virtual water.  Approximately how much water does it take to produce other products?

  • to produce a 2 liter soda, it takes about 120 gallons of water (think about the production of the plastic bottle)
  • to produce a pair of blue jeans, it takes about 2880 gallons of water (cotton is a very "thirsty" crop, requiring substantial irrigation)
  • to produce one hamburger, it takes about 640 gallons of water (remember, first you have to irrigate the grain, then you feed the grain to the cow, which also drinks water.....and then you have to clean the waste from the cattle)
Here are three easy ways to reduce your virtual water use:
  1. Eat less meat!
  2. Drink water from the tap in reusable water bottles!
  3. Reduce and reuse -- manufacturing new stuff requires water!
And as you pat yourself on the back for your water savings, enjoy these 25 water fun facts: