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Rated: ASR · Book · Nature · #2312668
When we encounter an animal or the outdoors, there's best practices that get ignored, stop
This is going to be a blog. It covers things I've learned about outdoor exploration, ecology, best practices hiking, responsible pet ownership, etc.

It is also my intent to call out the crap the human race tends to do when we encounter Nature. Yes that 'N' is supposed to be capitalized, because everything from our national and state parks to our animals is included in that word.

Some people might call what I write here controversial bull crap. It's what I've learned as a biology major(back when), exploring, and being a life long reader about all things related to the natural world.
March 11, 2024 at 7:28pm
March 11, 2024 at 7:28pm
So this is my last entry. I want to talk about what I know about the Food Web.

Most of us know about photosynthesis and the things at the top eat the things at the bottom. But it's not exactly that simple.

The truth is there are many bottoms to the food web. Every thing else relies on some form of life that derives its energy and building blocks from some inorganic form. With that in mind I'm going to explain a few definitions. Yes this is boring but it needs to be out of the way so what comes next is clearer.

Autotrophs don't eat other living things. This doesn't make them saints, it's just how they get by. To survive, they need to get stuff to make energy. There are two main types of autotrophs.

Chemo-autotrophs derive both their energy and nutrients from inorganic substances such as rocks, iron, sulphur or some other element. These types of organisms tend to be microscopic and are common around deep sea vents. In fact they are believed the basis for the ecosystem in the Marianas Trench.

Photo-autotrophs take light to make energy and gain nutrients from the soil. Pretty straightforward. This survival mode is used by cyanobacteria, algae(trust me not the same thing), plants and lichens.(I'll explain why they're not exactly autotrophs later.)

So anyways these organisms just sit around happily doing their thing until something limits their growth...or they get eaten. See living ecosystems have a limit. Unlike the old version of SimEarth, you can't sit with a field full of daisies and have their population grow forever. Eventually they run out of nutrients. When an organism dies and decomposes those nutrients return to the soil. But there's always one nutrient that gets scarce. That is called a limiting nutrient you can only have as many "daisies" as there is sufficient amount of that substance to go around. If that amount is exceeded, individuals begin dying off until the population reaches equilibrium.

Remember that because it comes up everywhere in the Food Web.

So populations of autotrophs are the basis of the food chain. No other forms of life can exist without them.

Why didn't life just stay all autotrophs? We're not sure, but somebody once said "Nature abhors a vacuum." Therefore, since there's something to exploit, something else comes along to fill that niche.

In a way this is good because that means two things. Not all the limited resources get turned into dead plants. That and if life hadn't gone beyond autotrophs, you wouldn't be reading this.(unless you're some weird, alien plant thingy with the equivalent of eyeballs and a brain. Thats unlikely though.)

Two more definitions here, heterotrophs and saprovores. Both equally important.

Heterotrophs gain energy and nutrients from eating other living things. Rabbits are heterotrophs; so are wolves, humans and a lot of unicellular and multicellular things. Including lichen. (believe me there's a huge reveal as to why I keep doing that. For those who already know, SHH! Don't spoil the surprise!)

Saprovores are a type of heterotroph that subsists on waste products and death. Without them we would be up worse than a poo river without a paddle. Everything dies and secretes waste. What happens to it? The answer is some microbe, fungi, insect, bird or other organism has to eat it. Gross but without them, the nutrients wouldn't cycle back through so they're vital too.
(All you living things who will eventually expire, the daisies and saprovores thank you for your sacrifice.)

For anybody who made it past the scatological and death talk, we're gonna start piecing this together.

The things that feed on the base of the food web are herbivores. The bunnies, deer, sea urchins and anything that doesn't eat animal flesh. Which is fine, but if it's just herbivores that's where we hit another bump.

Again we rub against limiting factors. For example if we have rabbits, just rabbits and plants, eventually there won't be any edible plants left in the area. The bunnies die a slow death from starvation.(Assuming there's enough water to go around.) Arrgh! That's a horrific idea, or at least it should be.

So again Nature, like the anti-hero it is, rescues the population of bunnies from starvation...by having a predator eating some. There are even predators that eat other predators. These are called apex predators.

But do you know what's neat about this? Predators are part of a healthy eco system. By keeping the herbivores from devouring all the plants they keep the ecosystem they exist in healthy.

When predators die, their remains are broken down by saprovores. Providing nutrients to grow plants to feed bunnies!(The circle of life completes...and cue that song from The Lion King!)

Robust ecosystems are not only pretty but help humans survive and stay sane.(see my entry on the importance of plants for why we need these. Oh yeah did I mention that, by and large, humans are omnivores? So having things to eat is just kinda a big deal.) Hey, look at that! It's all connected. Almost like a giant web.

Obviously this is a simple model with only "daisies", bunnies and wolves. In reality, there are thousands of species all competing for their piece of the web. The point I'm trying to make here is that everything depends on everything else. If one piece of the web, whether it's an autotroph, herbivore or predator, were to fail, it would have huge consequences for the rest of that ecosystem...and us.(Humans are not above this, we are a part of this web of life.)

Now for the ultimate reveal...what about lichens? Why did I include them crossed out in both heterotrophs and autotrophs? Because they're both. See a lichen isn't ever one organism. They have a photosynthetic algae or bacterium that lives in the moisture trapped by a heterotrophic organism, a fungus. In a way a lichen, by being symbiotic, is like the larger ecosystems. The microbe is dependent on the fungus for shelter and protection, the fungus in turn gets to eat some of the sugar produced by the microbe. Can these two organisms live without each other? Nope!

Without their partner, the individual organism would die. See? Even the bits we don't look at are connected.

March 6, 2024 at 3:45pm
March 6, 2024 at 3:45pm
I know this isn't exactly what I promised in the entry before last. I feel like, since I'm planning on wrapping things up in a couple of entries, I ought to combine a couple of topics.

Today I will be writing from experience and stuff I've learned and stored in my noggin. If it's wrong, well I apologize, there are plenty of ways to either verify or refute what I'm writing. So if you don't agree, keep it for yourself and do your own homework. There. I've had my rant. Moving on.

A lot of people like to visit National Parks and Wilderness Areas for hiking, fishing, camping and other reasons. These are fun and I won't condemn people for doing so. I will however cringe at some of the stupid, dangerous, disrespectful, things I've heard of people doing.

Stay On The Established Trail

All National Parks, State Parks, and Wilderness areas have maintained trail systems. They want you to stay on them for a reason. It's not political, it's not irrelevant, the rule exists to protect visitors and the nature they've come to observe.

While I was working in Shenandoah National Park, I knew of some people who broke this simple rule and ended up in a bad situation because of it.

One foggy fall day, a boy went up to Black Rock, a geological feature near the historic Big Meadows Lodge. He was taking pictures and managed to fall off a small cliff. A few hours later he was reported missing. He had to spend all night out in the woods with a search party looking.

This incident could've been avoided if he'd stayed on the trail. (Well that and he should have waited for better weather.) Thankfully, he survived but it still probably wasn't a good night.

Another example of why you should always stick to the trail is from my own life. Yes, I'm a hypocrite, but I will never do this again.

I was in college and had gone hiking with some people up to this area called The Wind Caves, in Logan Canyon, Utah. The trail was extremely steep and it was getting dark. Two people who thought they knew the area decided we should take a "shortcut".

Without waiting for anyone else, they started off and quickly left the rest of our group. All us had followed them in the direction indicated. We ended up stranded on a cliff top with a thin ledge between us and the path down.

What happens when you have a bunch of twenty somethings and a rock ledge? No flashlights, no safety equipment, no experience, we climbed across. I was terrified and out of shape. We could have been badly injured or killed.

Even if you don't care about the living beings on the side of the path. Or think about the historic landmarks that may be present, you should still stay on the trail.

Don't Feed or Touch The Wild Life

I really can't stress this enough. We have moved on from subsistence culture of hunters and gatherers. (If you have a permit to hunt, fish, are a wildlife biologist or game warden, fine, that's your business.) Therefore there is no good excuse to get close enough to touch a live wild animal.

Purposefully getting close to a wild animal when it's not your job is dangerous. You could be bit, trampled, gored, catch a disease or even killed. It's not worth it for a photo op, a dare or any other reason.

A good rule of thumb is to keep at least ten feet between you and anything larger than a sparrow. If it's a predator like a wolf, bear or bobcat, try to keep a minimum of fifty yards between you and said animal.(this should probably extend to large ungulates such as deer, elk, and moose. They can be very dangerous close up.)

Nature lovers seem to adore things with wings or tiny fluffy animals.(and bigger things) Some of the starry eyed idealists might think they're doing a favor by sharing tasty snacks with these native creatures...they're not.

See a lot of the food we eat has been cooked or processed in some way.(this is not a nutrition blog so please let's leave that for somewhere else.) This makes for a lot of readily available "nutrients" for these creature's microbiome.(e.g. the bacteria on their teeth and in their guts) If an animal eats human food as part of their diet, it can lead to dental problems, obesity and digestive problems.

As mentioned before, animals can't always digest the same things humans do. So that's another reason not to share food with wild life.

Another worse case scenario is that the animal expects people to feed it. That can get to be a nuisance or dangerous. I will give you some examples.

Wildwood, New Jersey is home to the world's longest Boardwalk. Every year this stretch of shops, restaurants and planks is full of tourists and seagulls. It's a fun place...until a seagull steals your food.

Why do they do this? Because some, thoughtless fool threw them a couple of fries because it's no big deal right? Nope! By throwing them food, the seagulls learn that they're entitled to it. If people don't give, seagulls swoop in and grab. It's gotten so bad, some open dining venues have put up deterrents to keep avian thieves at bay.

Demanding animals don't end there. My mom told me the story of how when she was a little girl, she decided to share a bag of potato chips with a deer that wandered by her family's camp site. The deer loved the crunchy salty snack...but it ran out. My mom, was still holding the bag and the deer started pawing at her. Since she was a small child, this could have ended worse. Before her dad managed to chase off the deer, it managed to injure my mom badly.

It's probably fortunate that she hadn't been trying to feed a bear or an alligator. That has the potential to turn lethal.

Leave Nature Where You Find It and As It Was

Unless you have the permission and training to take samples, it is generally not okay to take anything you find in a National Park.(In fact, in the US, it is considered a felony to remove any rock, animal, plant or artifact you find. Even where mushroom hunting and berry gathering are permitted, strict guidelines are in place to conserve numbers to help animal populations survive.) While I cannot speak about State and local parks and beaches, always call ahead to see what regulations are in place.

In general your best option is to leave the plants and other things alone. I don't care how cool that indigenous arrowhead is, do not pick it up. By removing the artifact you destroy the context and anthropologic value of such discovery. Leave that thing there. All plants play a role in their environment; this is not your garden or back yard, don't yank 'em or take 'em. Rocks provide shelter and habitat to both flora and fauna, leave them there! Even decaying logs are habitat, they were here before, give these ecosystems respect. That goes for any microbes, fungi or animals found in the wild as well.

Right, beat that one to death. Moving on.

Nature Is Not Your Trash Can and Poop Responsibly

Yeah this shouldn't need to be said again. But the "great outdoors" is not your trashcan or ashtray. Also if you have to "answer the call" and there is no facilities, make sure to dispose of your waste responsibly. At the risk of sounding like Leviticus, don't poop near a water source and bury it deep so the rain doesn't wash your germs into the river, lake or stream. (Also, this should be common sense, don't poop near where food is being made. Make sure to use and have a sanitation kit, to clean up yourself, using leaves is not a good solution in fact it's dangerous.)

Always Plan And Stay Together

You should always know how long you'll be out on a hike or camping trip. That way you know what to take and you can let somebody know where you're going. When you do that you're less likely to end up being a headline like "Unidentified woman/man's Skeleton Found in [Some Area],Believed to Be [Insert Name], Had Been Missing For Weeks!"

Also, especially in the mountains, weather conditions can change rapidly. One minute it's a bright warm day, the next you got a storm blitzing your butt with hail! Always make sure to dress in layers and have a change of clothes in a water proof pouch. Make sure to have a first aid kit on your expedition.(a small one works most of the time.)

Take plenty of water. If you drink from a river, spring or lake, you run the risk of catching e.colli, Giardia or another infectious disease. Giardia and Amoebic dysentery are both life ruins you can't get rid of.(Antibiotics only work on bacteria. The parasites that cause both of those aren't, so they can be difficult if not impossible to treat.) Also there may be other contaminants and no matter how much treatment solutions and filters you run that water through, there are some contaminants you can't eliminate unless you have some government budget technology. So if you can, bring your own water. Filter and treat as a last result.

The Bottom Line
There's a lot here. I am pretty sure I've missed stuff like insect repellent and checking for ticks.

Anyways, if you take nothing else from this just remember three things. Be prepared, the wilderness in general is not to be treated like your back yard, wild animals are not your pets so no food sharing.
March 1, 2024 at 2:25pm
March 1, 2024 at 2:25pm
So it's been over a week. Apologies for the late entry. I needed time to take care of some other things. So I can get back to being productive.

Just so you know I'm still alive I do intend to come back but I feel a little too unwell to blog right now. Between the Amoxicillin I'm taking to make sure my dental procedure doesn't become septic and recently starting other healing processes I'm not 100% able to focus on making an entry.

The only reason I'm making this update is to let anyone reading know that as soon as I am up to it, I'll be back by unpopular demand.
February 22, 2024 at 7:17pm
February 22, 2024 at 7:17pm
Wordsmitty ✍️ commented on my last entry stating that I forgot to mention that having a new pet checked by a vet for underlying medical conditions. They also said that it's important to get your pet vaccinated.

Wordsmitty is correct on both counts. Us and our cats, dogs and other fury pals have a lot in common. We all have stomachs, hearts, brains and a lot of the same organs. That means that some diseases and disabilities that happen in humans, happen in our pets. Early screening for these conditions during a vet visit can ensure that your animal has a good life. They and you deserve to have health and quality of life.

Anyways that's it for today. Next time, it's either about wild animals or the Web of Life. Hopefully it'll be a good read either way.
February 17, 2024 at 12:57pm
February 17, 2024 at 12:57pm
So this is the second half of my rant on pet ownership I think we were talking about cats and dogs. Why they should be spayed or neutered. Why you should keep them on a leash if you take them outside. If you didn't read the last one and want to know more, check out my last entry.

This time I'd like to just share some generic advice for all pet parents. Things you should or shouldn't do to get the best experience with your pet. Yes I'm bossy, you've been warned.

I'm assuming that people reading this understand I'm not talking about making your pets Communists. There, humor laugh, move on.

Imagine if you had a kid. You didn't take them on play dates, to the park or anywhere else. Not school, not amusement parks, nowhere. And you never had any visitors of any kind.

Then, when they're eighteen or twenty one or whatever they're suddenly thrust into a world with other people, animals, noises sights and smells. Oh yeah and now they have to figure out how to live in that world and everybody just expects that individual to know how to act.

Putting aside that B.F. Skinner did something like this and that in modern times this is considered child abuse or neglect, let's think about what might happen.

Well first they're probably going to feel stressed, frightened and overwhelmed. Then they might wonder why someone got upset at them for cutting in line, standing in the middle of the road, or worse getting in a verbal or physical altercation with someone due to a misunderstanding. Then they might be arrested, sent to jail and in some countries institutionalized.

While your pet might not get arrested and hopefully they wouldn't end up in a shelter, some of the same outcomes can happen when pets aren't properly socialized.

If a puppy, kitten or other furry domestic animal isn't socialized, how are they supposed to learn? They won't know how to react when approached by a young human if they've never seen one. Let alone another dog, cow or [insert domestic animal here] if they aren't taught.

What does a mammal brain do in an unknown situation that contains either real or perceived danger? It enters a state called fight or flight. And if an animal cannot flight, they will fight. This ends really badly in under socialized animals, leading to injury of the individual, their "opponet"(even if that's yoga pants) and possibly their owners. Why? Because these animals have not learned social cues or when to back down.

So to prevent negative outcomes like these, have your pet exposed to other stimuli and animals while they're young and still have the brain plasticity to learn. You are your pet's teacher and your duty as a pet parent should be to lovingly teach them how to behave in a socially acceptable manner. That way your pet knows what to do and not do. Critical, common sense that should never be overlooked.

Do Not Free Your Pet

I know I just emphasized the importance of socializing your pet by comparing them to humans. Still domestic animals are not slaves in need of emancipation. I know Peta and similar organizations would disagree but let's face reality.

The Guinea pigs, goldfish, and most bred in captivity animals we call pets have been domestic animals for tens of thousands of years. Yes you can prove that fish have memories and some feelings and even more so with mammals. That doesn't mean they should be turned loose.

Actions such as these threaten local biodiversity. A good point in case is Australia. Both bull frogs and rabbits are not native to that country. Someone got the bright idea to release these animals into the countryside. Now they pose a threat to indigenous flora and fauna. They have become invasive species that is so firmly entrenched that it's hard to get rid of. Maybe this seems like a so what, I promise you I will write a couple of articles that will make this issue clearer. For now just know that this wasn't a good thing.

If you need more examples, there's escaped pet snakes. Not tiny ones, big old constrictors like boas and pythons. Where are they? In Florida's urban areas. That's terrible because these escapees are capable of entering homes and killing pets. There have even been reports of children being eaten by snakes originally imported for the pet trade.

Even if your pet's a goldfish things can turn pretty ugly. See, goldfish grow depending on the size of the container they're placed in. If you release them into a local pond or river and they manage to survive, they get much bigger(within certain limits) and can become either predators or competition of local fish species. Not exactly what you want if you're an angler or if you want a healthy ecosystem.

For the types of pets which cannot survive on their own. Seriously, don't release them. You're being cruel to them and that's not cool.

What to Feed and Not Feed

Sometimes we can be a little ridiculous in what we feed animals. They cannot eat all the same foods we eat.

According to PetMD and the educational signs at the zoo, you should never feed any animals onions. Not raw, not as part of something, not as an onion ring. Onions are poisonous to animals. They can get very sick and possibly even die.

Other things include garlic, artificial sweeteners such as xylitol, macadamia nuts, avocado, chocolate, alcohol, anything with caffeine, grapes and a lot more. I'm leaving a link. Yes I know the link says dogs but it also applies to cats, birds, fish and other non human animals. Although I should note that there are exceptions to the grape rule. (Ask your local vet or zoo for more information and if you want other sources.)


Anyways I think it's worth mentioning that some animals, such as domestic cats, are obligate carnivores. What does that term mean? It means they are on a meat only diet. Sorry vegans, you're never going to get your cat to eat an animal product free diet.

If you feed them any grain, fruits, nuts, vegetable or dairy, it will cause gastroenteritis in domestic felines. That means they will get a huge tummy ache and it is highly likely they'll get diarrhea, vomiting and inflammation of intestinal tract.

Then why does dry food contain cereal products like wheat or oats? Just to make it convenient for busy owners.

Pet cats are much better off on a fresh prepared or wet canned food diet. They'll be healthier and happier. And their owners will have to clean up less vomit and "mishaps". It takes time but like anything else, it's worth it.

That's pretty much all I have to say about pet care. If you don't have a pet be sure to research the animal you're getting. Make sure you can meet their needs!

February 11, 2024 at 4:37pm
February 11, 2024 at 4:37pm
Originally, this was going to be an entry about water management. But since I need to do more research before I shoot my mouth off, I'd like to talk about something else vital.

Since the early days of humanity, our species has practiced this habit of keeping other animals for various purposes. Today I'm going to be talking about those that are kept solely for companionship or as status symbols. More commonly known as pets.

While I am not a veterinarian or a member of any animal rights group, I do believe it is important for us to take responsibility for our animals and not neglect them. That said, I haven't always been the best animal guardian. And I now repent of my carelessness. If ever own any type of animal, I will follow the advice I give here.

Exotic Animals

So I am going to be emphatic and some may not agree with this. Do not keep big wild animals as pets! Period. That includes big cats, wild cats of any size, great apes, parrots, cockatoos, alligators or crocodiles, large fish you didn't buy at a pet store, and any sort of not domesticated animal not mentioned above.

Believe it or not, over sixty percent of all mammals that evolved since the beginning of the Eocene(which is the most recent epoch of Earth's Natural History and was the current epoch until the industrial revolution.) To my mind that's extremely sad!

If it was born in the wild, it belongs in the wild. Not some tourist trap. Some animals that used to be kept as "exotic pets" have only a few hundred or less left in the wild. Conservation efforts can only do so much. Let's not cause more extinction through over collection, that's just plain inconsiderate.

That said, I am not anti zoo, aquarium or bio park. These organizations on the whole generally have missions of conservation, education and research.(not the animal testing kind, the watching them to learn more about their behaviors.) This is the only exception to the rule. Also zoos, aquariums and bio parks no longer capture their specimens from wild populations.

I'll probably talk more about them in another entry. Moving on to the next topic.

Small Animals
For the sake of brevity, this section is going to include, fish smaller than koi, rodents, rabits, turtles, non-exotic lizards, snakes, budgies, insects and spiders.(pigs might fall into this category but I don't think so, I'll talk about them in the large mammals section.)

Small animals generally live out most of their days in an enclosure. Sometimes, with the exception of fish, they get taken out for "play time". So this is the animal's home.

The most important thing to remember is that it has to be clean. The bedding material or water changed frequently and preferably not wood chips. Why not wood chips? An animal can get cut or get a splinter from chips. Most small animals hide their pain so you may not know your pet has an injury until it has a severe, life threatening infection. So, no wood chips. Straw or some other safe, soft material is better.

Another thing an animal's enclosure needs is a place to hide.this can be a hollow half log, fake rock. Safe, non-toxic, real plants. This is so your small animal feels like it has a safe place to go if it feels vulnerable or just wants left alone.

If the animal you're keeping is a fish, make sure your aquarium has a filtration system and gravel.(not soft because this is fish in water now.) this can help controll disease and helps keep the water cleaner and more oxygenated.

For anyone maintaining an aquarium, make sure to keep the pH levels, temperature and salinity balanced for the types of organisms living in the environment. So keep in mind you don't keep blue tangs in the same tank as cichlids because one is a saltwater fish and the other is freshwater. Also make sure you don't put fish that don't get along or are extremely different sizes together. Fish brains aren't complicated but they can be territorial and aren't really picky about whether it's a tank mate or flakes they eat.

One thing that mostly applies to small birds and mammals. You must provide some sort of environmental enrichment. This keeps them entertained and provides exercise to keep your pet healthy. Environmental enrichment can include a toy ball, rope toy, mirror, tube maze, or exercise wheel. Just make sure that what you put in with them is safe for them to play with. Meaning they can't swallow bits of it and get hurt or sustain other injuries.

If a small animal is social, there needs to be more than one. Animals, like people, need friends to stay happy and sane.

Assuming a pet isn't just for show.(Or, even if it is.) You must make sure it is used to being handled by people and getting into the crate for vet visits. This is critical for your safety and the veterinary team that takes care of your pet. This should begin when an animal is young because it is much harder to train an older animal to tolerate humans poking and prodding it. If you want to learn how to get an animal used to this, Youtube has some good tips or there are books and blogs that explain humane methods of training.

Last common sense piece of advice feed your pets regularly, and take them to the vet at least once a year.

Kitties and Doggies

Cats and dogs are among the most popular pets. They have been with humankind for thousands of years.(Dogs the longest but that's for another paragraph.)

Before adopting a furry four legged buddy, ask yourself some questions. Am I prepared to clean up loads of hair? Am I the sort of person who can feed an animal regularly?(some adult dogs need lots of food.) Will I be able to do regular grooming? Do I want to clean a litter box or pick up poop? Am I willing to give an animal a monthly flea and tick treatment? Can I clean up vomit or pee off my floor/other surface? Will I meet their play and exercise needs? If the answer to ANY of these questions is no, then please do yourself, your family and the whole world a big favor DO NOT adopt a cat or dog.(At least not one you can't meet the demands of) No matter how much your young child begs you! It is not fair to the animal, yourself or anyone in contact with your "pet" to adopt an animal you cannot or will not take care of.

There, I said it! It's not that I hate dog and cat owners, it's that I hate the ones who have an animal "just because."

I have another bone to pick with people. It has three parts so maybe it should be three bones.

A)buy from reputable breeders it's just more ethical. Just say no to kittens or puppies of unknown/untrained sources. That includes neighbors, friends and that dip with the "free puppies" or "kittens" sign taped to the side of their vehicle. I can guarantee that accepting an animal from one of these sources is probably going to mean health or behavioral issues if not legal trouble depending on where you live. Also that person offering "free" animals has not been a responsible pet owner and is causing a burden on the environment/humane society/ASPCA by not having their cat or dog spayed or neutered before it got to that point!

B)mixed breeds are in better health overall because they are more genetically robust. Pure bred animals are generally the result of inbreeding. As a result, pure bred dogs and cats can have aggression, behavior or health problems.(so yes it's time to put the American Kennel Club, and any other organization that touts certain "breeds" as desirable out to the bone yard and burry them like the fossils they are! That goes double for people who produce cats with any wild cat ancestry because they are breeding something humans can't handle and then when they're abandoned, they become a problem for local bird, fish and amphibian populations. Sorry if that seems extreme. Sorry if you have a pure-breed you love, you can keep loving them, just know that mixed is better.)

C)Once you own an animal such as a cat or dog, if it has not already been done and you are not a licensed breeder, spay and neuter your pet! No excuses, no exceptions. There's plenty of organizations out there to help with cost.

According to estimates, one female dog can produce 508 puppies a year. Cats are worse due to lower rearing time and many other factors. It is possible for one female cat to birth six litters a year and they sexually mature at about eight weeks so in one year a female cat has 4,000 plus descendants. Holy crap! Enough said! I'm not even going to talk about un-neutered males because, let's face it, monogamy isn't a thing for domestic cats and dogs. That means he'll have sired multiple litters with different females.

If that's not bad enough leaving their gonads in can be a risk for cancer. Big bills, lots of suffering.

Oh yeah, un neutered males of either feline or canine origin can be aggressive, smelly and really bad house mates. By neutering a male animal while it's in the first months of its life, you can avoid all the territorial markings and aggression. If you wait too long, you will be stuck with a problem animal. Or worse, the animal might have to be euthanized due to injuring themselves or another animal or person.(or you give it to a shelter and then they give it the "good night shot".)

While it's true females may have less aggression due to lower testosterone, there are other more obnoxious problems that come with being an unspayed cat.

There's a big difference between apes(such as humans) and canids and felines. See instead of going through a menstrual cycle. (Aunt Flo if we want to be prudish.) when a cat or dog's estrogen levels go up, it enters a state of increased fertility and becomes receptive to mating. This is what biologists refer to as Estrus and lay people call "heat".

Ew gross. Now why should you care? Well aside from the female spraying urine everywhere she can be quite vocal. In cats(I can't speak for dogs as I've never been around an "intact" female dog.)this takes the form of spraying, yowling and presenting herself to anyone or anything she thinks might possibly mate with her.(unfortunately, my sister in law's cat is un-spayed and has thought that I'm a male cat. I have seen more of their cat's genitals than I care to admit and I didn't want to see them in the first place.)

Some might think, what's the big deal? It's once a month right? No it is not once a month. Female cats enter Estrus every two weeks or so. If you don't spay a cat eight weeks of age(no, that's not too young, the ASPCA says that's fine) there's going to be life long problems.

So anyways, on a less graphic note, both cats and dogs should be trained to walk on a leash and accept handling by humans. This protects you, your cat or dog, the environment and anyone else you encounter outside.

I recommend anyone who owns a cat or dog to also learn about normal behavior for their chosen pet. They're not mini people, even if sometimes they think they are.

Cats and dogs hunters. Play and exercise are a must because that hunter still lives in their brains and demands satisfaction. If it isn't satisfied, it can lead to bad behavior.(chewing on non food items, being vocal for attention, etc.)

Anyways, I'm kind of running out of time! The real world demand attention. Stay tuned for part two if you can stomach any more.
February 5, 2024 at 12:05pm
February 5, 2024 at 12:05pm
So today I'm going to start my entry by providing a couple of important links. These explain what Ghost Fishing is, why it's harmful and what can be done far better than I can.

So this is a one is for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, more commonly known as NOAA's article on Ghost Fishing.


This is informative but for those people who don't trust the United States government, I'm going to provide a more "everyman" kind of source. If you follow the link: https://fishingbooker.com/blog/ghost-fishing-explained/

If you're done checking out those(or haven't done so). I'm just going to add my two cents.

I used to contribute to a citizen science project called NeMo-net. Yes that's actually how NASA spells their project's name. The goal was to have humans look at images of coral reefs and classify coral in the pictures to teach AI to do the same.

It's all good fun. If you can stand the juvenile behaviors of other users who didn't care about serious science.(not only was there a chance to classify images, you could also review other's work. Unfortunately this led to me getting irked by people scribbling multicolor "union jacks" and poop emojis onto images of reefs. Seriously? Anyways that's not the point.)

The relevance of the project to this entry comes from classification pictures provided from a specific area, Tumon Bay, Guam. NASA added in the classification of Anthropogenic Object.

An anthropogenic object is anything man made that ends up in the water.

Too often I had to trace the narrow form of some lost or discarded fishing line going across the reefs of Tumon Bay.

I didn't know what Ghost Fishing was back then. I educated myself and now that I know, those images are more heartbreaking than ever.

These discarded lines, nets and traps hurt our reefs. These colonial animals we call coral pull Carbon from our oceans to build their skeletons. If they die off, we loose one of our biggest allies in the fight against climate change!

So even if you're okay with a future without dolphins, turtles and whales, don't just sit idly. Humanity's future depends on at least reducing if not stopping Ghost Fishing.

I plan to write letters to my township and to my senators advocating for safe disposal sites for worn fishing gear. Or if places for disposal exist already, demand that they educate people about these programs. If it is possible for anyone reading this to write your local government officials. Tell them it's time to end abandoning fishing gear!
January 31, 2024 at 12:13pm
January 31, 2024 at 12:13pm
The title of this entry should be self evident to all adults! But I have found first hand that it is horrifyingly absent in a lot of people's common sense.

Apparently, I was the only one in my town who was raised by a mother who told them not to litter. Today I am taking it upon myself to share what I know about why you shouldn't throw things you're done using onto the ground. Maybe if people understand why it's so dangerous, they'll clean up their act!

The most common waste I see as I walk through town includes, beer cans, plastic bottles, medical face masks, used diapers and cigarette butts.

These things don't just magically disappear when you throw them on the ground. They sit there leaching the things inside them into the ground and eventually into the waterways, aquifers and soil. The sun hits the plastics and they turn into smaller broken down pieces of plastic.

Some people may be thinking "so what? This doesn't hurt me. No one will know I threw my Aquafrio bottle into that pond. My smoking only hurts me and everyone throws their butts on the ground!"

Well, guess what? Even if it's not you directly, your litter will hurt someone. It's not just the sea turtles, fish and salamanders that suffer. Humans are impacted by the improper disposal of waste too!

According to the University of Berkeley, https://www.oceancare.org/en/stories_and_news/cigarette-butts-pollution/ and myriad other sources that aren't in big tobacco's pocket, cigarette butts contain lead, nickel, arsenic and other toxic chemicals.

Sadly, this is one of the most common forms of waste. Hundreds of thousands of butts get picked up by ocean and environmental cleanups. This shouldn't be normal!

To explain how toxins from these disgusting cylinders get into the soil and water, let me remind you of something. The water cycle. Even if your cigarette butt doesn't start a fire. If you leave it out in the open the rain falls on it and all seven thousand of those lovely toxic and carcinogenic chemicals inside flow out of the butts into storm drains and waterways.

Think about this process repeated hundreds of thousands of times, all over your cities, countrysides, roadways and wetlands. Seriously irresponsible smokers, thanks for killing off your neighbors, shortening all our lives!

If you're going to smoke, at least make sure you're putting the butts into an ashtray. Then empty that into a trash can, so hopefully waste management can deal with the hazardous waste appropriately. That way, you are only hurting you and the people around your second hand smoke!

So face masks and disposable diapers. We needed one during the Pandemic.(Not going to name it, pretty sure we all know which one.) The other prevents incontinent children and adults alike from making a mess everywhere.

Yeah, okay, at first glance these may seem like necessary evils, but they're not. Yes I wore a face mask during those two extremely long years they were mandated. Yes I wore diapers as a small un-potty trained infant. Still in these instances, reusable beats disposable.

Why? Well let's say you're like the absolutely vile tourists in a mini van that decided to throw baby doe's poopy diaper onto the side of the road...right outside my house.

If I hadn't gone out there and picked it up, and disposed of it in our trash, what would've happened?

Let's start with the poop. Any human(or cat or dog or etc.)feces, without a doubt, contain disease causing organisms. Best case scenario is a non-lethal strain of e.coli. There are other worse door prizes waiting to ooze out of that soiled diaper. They include, Noroviruses, Hepatitis A, Adenoviruses, Influenza A, Salmonella shigella(food poisoning), Cryptosporidium, Cholera(yes that's still a thing, especially in the developing world), oh so many forms of dysentery, and other communicable diseases. So if you made it through that list, congratulations, you know why poo is gross.

By leaving disposable diapers out in the open, in nature or on the ground, you're exposing everyone to those horrible sicknesses. That's not a favor. Neither is all the microplastics released into the environment by diapers and other sources.(More on what those are in a moment!)

Face Masks, again, you throw those on the ground, they will not magically disappear. In fact as you're wearing them, your spit hits the mask and gets trapped. That's the idea. Because your spit contains bacteria and viruses.

When they get left in the gutter, sidewalks, fields and so forth, those germs are still there. There's also plastic pollution released too. This comes from the elastic loops and fibers in your Face Mask. If you truly care, be aware of what you do with these objects.

Now why, if these objects are so germ covered, would you want reusable ones?

First, let me state that there's these fabulous innovations. They are called washing machines, plant based detergents, soap, and hand washing. These are available. If you are too squeamish to clean diapers, maybe there's a business in your area that launders things like that.(I'm just putting it out there.) And, thanks to science, we now know that twenty-one to thirty seconds of thorough scrubbing of wrists, palms, fingers and nail beds will eradicate most of the germs on your hands! That makes re-usable diapers and face masks more than feasible.

So before I tackle plastic containers, let me talk about beer containers. Alcohol, even the grain based alcohol humans enjoy, is poisonous. It kills things on a cellular level. Beer, wine and spirits just do it at a slower rate than say iso-propyl(rubbing alcohol).

Even after the booze is gone, the containers are still problematic. Not only do the glass ones leave dangerous shards all over the place when chucked at high velocity, there are other dangers too. There's lead and cadmium in the painted decorations. Not to mention other metals like tin and aluminum. Our friend the water cycle will disperse these into the soil and waterways. More yummy poison anyone?

That brings me to the final problem. The one most talked about. Plastic in its myriad forms. Whether it's in bottles or any other form of litter I've mentioned, we've got our hands full.

Animals not only get stuck entangled or injured by our waste products. When
it end up in a wetland, ocean or other natural environments, it can be mistaken for food. If it's lucky it doesn't die of starvation or bowl perforation. But something more insidious is afoot, microplastics.

These tiny particles break off of bigger pieces of waste. When ingested, they go on to mimic hormones in the body of animals and people. Some disrupt endocrine function, cause infertility, and disruption of the endocrine system can lead to diabetes, PCOS, developmental problems and maybe even cancer.

For the reader who is saying to themselves. "So what? Who cares if some fish in India or where ever eats plastic? It doesn't affect me." More bad news, it does. See, that type of stuff tends to concentrate up the food chain. So even if a tuna ate a plankton that ate a microplastic, there's going to be more bad stuff in that tuna than there is in any animal lower on the food chain.

Our civilizations are more interconnected than we realize. Our food in any one country comes from all over the world. So that fish in another country where the waters are filled with plastic waste might just end up on your plate.

This isn't just a carnivore problem. If you're vegan or vegetarian, microplastics still impact you. According to Science Alert, microplastics are entering human blood streams. That means even if we don't eat meat of any kind, the water we drink contains plastic pollution. Isn't that really sad?

I think it is. I also think it is beyond time to clean up our act as humans. The Anthropocene doesn't have to continue to be a pile of rubbish.

So what can everyone do? First and foremost stop throwing your trash on the ground! Whether it's the city, country, ocean or natural environment, take responsibility for your trash. Hold onto it till you can properly dispose of it! Whether that's a compost bin, recycling(if available), or trash can, that is where your trash belongs. Also, if someone could get around to inventing more biodegradable packaging that'd be great because the current stuff will kill us.

January 27, 2024 at 3:56pm
January 27, 2024 at 3:56pm
So if you venture outside your house and look at your section of this blue ball, you'll notice something. It's made up of rocks, dirt and, for the sake of simplicity, let's call it sand. Even the bits of our planet covered by water are made of more rocks, dirt and sand.

Way back when our planet had calmed down from the Hadean and late heavy bombardment, this was not the case. Earth was water rocks and more tiny rocks. How did we get a planet with gravel, sand and dirt?

Right now I want to tell you about two forces; erosion and plants. They may seem unrelated but they're not.

See, due to Earth being hit with the comets and meteors that brought both the stuff for life and water to this world, you now have complex physical and chemical processes going on.

Water doesn't just sit in one spot, it evaporates. That turns to clouds in our atmosphere. Eventually this water rains back down. That's the water cycle.

The stuff that we call rain isn't just water. Atmospheric gasses dissolve in water and changes how acid or basic it is. The rain erodes the rocks, bits and pieces break off and get rolled down hill and carried "down stream." So eventually these bits that break off the higher points get broken down into pebbles and ends up becoming gravel and sand. (There's also a rock cycle but that's not where I'm headed with this.)

Meanwhile, plants are evolving. They start out small and in the ocean. But eventually, they conquer everything. Seriously look, there's plants everywhere humans go.

The mosses, hornworts, and liverworts begin the breaking up rocks as well. Over millions of years, these simple plants have produced dirt. This substance is critical.(Not just for something to clean.)

Why? It gives a place for more complicated plants to grow. True, some animals can and do eat small, simple plants like algae and mosses, but, with the exception of some seaweeds, humans can't eat these. In fact, a great number of algae and mosses are poisonous to people. We and other animals eat plants. They form the foundation of any ecosystem's food web.

So plants gave us dirt, a source of food for everything and, as mentioned in a previous entry, they absorb CO2 and emit oxygen. There's still more they do.

Humans like to build our homes so we don't die of exposure. Let's face it, we've settled on six out of seven current continents but came from one. (Africa, not Pangea just to be clear.) We're not adapted to the environments we've settled in, having shelter from the weather is a necessity, not a nicety. Usually, if you don't want to have to fight off bugs and cave bears, this means making some sort of structure.

Dirt by itself doesn't hold still, thanks to wind and rain. If we build and leave bare dirt, that surface will wash or blow away. That's erosion, remember?

Once your dirt leaves, there's cavities forming below your shelter. Maybe not right away, but soon, your shelter will collapse.

I can hear some out of touch person in my mind's eye. They're asking "well why don't we just pour concrete all over and build on bedrock?"

There are so many problems with that idea. Most obvious ones being the water table, thermal gain and sink holes.

Let's look at the water table. Not all the water on Earth is on the surface. Some of it is beneath the dirt and rock we build on. We call those underground lakes and Aquifers. That's what makes up the water table.

Bedrock is not always above the water table so you can't count on bedrock.

Concrete is the other problem. Water naturally tends to seep into the ground if it doesn't evaporate first. But that only happens if there's pores in the soil.

The typical concrete pad isn't porous. Water can't flow through this. But it can get underneath it from up hill. Eventually, the water sweeps away dirt and erodes any rock. This leads to sinkhole formation. Any structure sitting on top of such a cavity is going to have a very bad day. Usually, without a readily noticeable warning.

Even if your building hasn't succumbed to the undermining of sinkholes, concrete has another big problem. Even when it's not dark colored, concrete absorbs visible light, that gets re-emitted as heat. Anything sitting on that concrete is going to get much hotter than its surroundings. At best that's just unpleasant but could quickly become lethal in the wrong conditions.

Do you know what I'm going to suggest as a solution for that problem? Plants! Sure you can build your building and related pathways. Just add plants.

If you have plants growing in dirt, it provides something to hold the dirt in place while still allowing water to properly make its way down into the soil. This lowers the risk of sink holes.

Another added benefit of having plants in and around any structure is that they lower the temperature of the air around them.

How? There's this thing they do called transpiration. That's the process of dragging water through the plant's roots up through its leaves. This process cools their surroundings significantly.

Think of it, cities are often overheated because they are mostly stone and metal. Imagine if we harnessed the power of transpiration? We plant trees, bushes, flowers and other things in planters, green plant covered rooftops and along our pathways. We could potentially offset the overheating that plagues urban and suburban areas.

If all this seems useless, wait there's more. Plants make alliances with other organisms to care for the soil. It's true, corn, legumes(peas and beans), and other species form a relationship with special microorganisms that help them fix nitrogen.

Nitrogen is often a limiting nutrient for plant growth. Our crops require it to grow. Hence why we rely on the products of the Haber-Bosch process to fertilize our farms' soil. This is often inefficient and farmers apply more than necessary which leads to toxic runoff.

Unlike our artificial means of introducing more nitrogen, plants that form a relationship with microorganisms get an advantage of the microbe getting nitrogen for them. Leading to enhanced growth of not only that plant but the ones growing around it.

By depending on these nitrogen fixing alliances, we could have healthier, better agricultural practices.

For those of you saying "that's nice, I'm off to space so this doesn't apply to me." I'm just going to be rude and say you're wrong.

Even if we manage to solve all the problems with gravity, gamma rays and inorganic materials, we still gotta eat. It may not be dehydrated corn and potatoes but you can bet some sort of plant matter will be essential to providing food for future space faring humans.

Plants could also fulfill the role of oxygen supplying and bio fuel in these new space colonies.

Not only that, our species kind of has these complex brains that need something to keep them sane. Whether we're talking about aesthetics or pharmaceuticals, plants will play a critical role.

And, sigh, yes, for the utilitarian among us, we can use them for other things. Like bamboo for sustainable building materials. Plant starches for glue and bio-degradable packaging. Fibers from plants should be something we consider as well if we intend to still have textiles.

So after all that, I hope it's clear why plants will be a critical component to saving the humans.
January 24, 2024 at 2:31pm
January 24, 2024 at 2:31pm
4.5 billion years ago, the primordial earth was a hellscape complete with molten surface, un-breathable gasses and life as we know it did not exist. It was only through the Late Heavy Bombardment that things necessary for Carbon based life, such as water, simple inorganic compounds that would become the building blocks of life and so forth got here.

Point is, long before humans were around to get all their big ideas, planet Earth was here. Sure it was getting smacked by space rocks and "sister worlds". (Thats why we have a gigantic moon is because during Earth's formation another world smacked into our planet.)

Earth has been host to various forms of life. In fact, the reason that the atmosphere had oxygen in it at all is due to life. Tiny little microbes related to cyanobacteria performed photosynthesis. Whereby they took photons of light to fix carbon into themselves and made energy for themselves. Their pollution is the oxygen they poop from photosynthesis.

Eventually this led to global cooling. Creating "Snowball Earth" and the first mass extinction event.

Billions of years later Earth has been through five mass extinction events. All caused by different things like asteroid impacts, massive volcanic eruptions on scales we haven't seen in human history, when things started eating each other instead of using photo or chemo synthesis.(Shocking, I know.) Here in the modern era, we're on the verge of a sixth mass extinction event due to climate change.

Every time a cataclysm wiped out most life on earth, there were survivors. They branched out and became the diversity of the next epoch until the next planet wide catastrophe.

Even if humans do go extinct due to a disaster they had a hand in creating, planet Earth will still be here. Until our sun starts expanding into a red giant and vaporizes our blue dot. (Don't worry, that's not going to come about for another 800 million years.)We won't save or destroy our planet.(Unless we survive and evolve as a civilization then maybe we can haul our little blue world away from the cosmic frying pan.)

So instead of shouting "Save the Planet" we should be shouting "Save the Humans from themselves" or "Save the way things are."

I admit to paraphrasing Neil deGrasse Tyson in the previous paragraph. That said, I think that astronomer makes a good point. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to save the humans other than adapting our behavior and attitudes and that is easier said than done.

We could reduce carbon emissions. Figure out a way, using microbes that eat green house gasses, such as methane and carbon dioxide to reduce the amount of these substances in our atmosphere.

We could also make ourselves floating cities that employ sustainable practices to make a living in the ocean. Yes it's challenging and maybe a little weird but it could help us weather the changes that we cannot stop. (Sorry, fact is, we are already headed for changes. Our species, if it wants to survive, must adapt we can't just keep going the same way. That's the rules. I didn't make them up.)

Humanity could potentially become a star traveling race and outrun the solar induced demise of our planet. But that requires multi-generational ships, a way to shield ourselves from cosmic radiation(including gamma ray bursts), a way to generate earth like gravity.(if we want to survive in a form we'd call human.) A way to feed ourselves and gain resources to make it all happen. It's lightyears between us and our nearest stellar neighbors.So we'd basically be cannibalizing neighboring worlds in our solar system. We're a long ways from being anything like Star Wars or Star Trek's ideas of humanity. We'll need to survive ourselves first before we ever leap into inter-stellar space.

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