I’m leaving for a few weeks on vacation tomorrow night. I couldn’t be happier about this, and I’ll post all about my trip when I get back (at least, the science-y and library-related parts of it), but for now, I need to prepare. I anticipate being very busy playing catch-up when I return, and I’ve been posting here less than I’d like to. Therefore, I present to you a huge list of things I’ve been meaning to post about but never got around to. I might post in more detail on some of these topics later as I get a chance, but I encourage you to check out these links in my absence. In no particular order:

  • HOME is a stunningly beautiful 90-minute film from director Yann Arthus-Bertrand. It was released on June 5th simultaneously in over 50 different countries, and is freely available to watch on YouTube in HD. It covers the history of life on Earth, focusing heavily on human changes to the environment that have resulted in ecological collapses across the planet and global warming. The last 20 minutes or so provide a summary, but I highly recommend setting aside some time to watch the whole thing.
  • Another possibly global-warming related news item: The New York Times reports on the PNAS study about disappearing ice caps atop Mt. Kilimanjaro.
  • Toxic waste from a shipwreck off the coast of Madagascar is wreaking ecological havoc, according to the WWF.
  • Two female spectacled bears at the Leipzig Zoo are suffering from hair-loss. The Telegraph article isn’t very informative, but spectacled bears have a history of this problem in captivity. It’s limited to female bears and is thought to be stress-related. Incidentally, cross your fingers that I see a fully-furred spectacled bear while on vacation… they’re native to the Andean forests!
  • This collection of photographs of pollution in China has been heavily making the internet rounds. You’ve probably already seen it, but if not, you’ll be shocked. The photographs are so well-done they’re almost beautiful, but the content will make you cry.
  • Here’s some happy news, albeit a bit old: decades-long efforts by the French to clean up pollution in the Seine is finally paying off! After high levels of pollution in the middle of last century killed off all but four fish species in the river, France instituted large-scale efforts to clean up the waters, including a purification plant. Now, Atlantic salmon have returned to their historic breeding grounds up-river without any human interference. One of these was caught by an angler outside of Paris. There are now 32 species present in the river!
  • Have you heard about the Genome 10K project? “The Genome 10K project aims to assemble a genomic zoo—a collection of DNA sequences representing the genomes of 10,000 vertebrate species, approximately one for every vertebrate genus.” Thanks to the drastic reduction over the years of the cost to sequence a genome, this project is finally feasible, and collaborators are coming from all corners of the globe.
  • DNA is also going to ensure that we have delicious heritage apples for years to come, I hope.
  • The Bronx Zoo’s Wildlife Conservation Society recently opened a new LEED gold-certified Center for Global Conservation that looks to be very impressive.
  • Attention parents: Black bears in Yosemite prefer minivans.
  • The winners of the British Wildlife Photography Awards were announced last month. Here’s the Coast & Marine winner:

  • New York is seeing “coywolves”, coyote-wolf hybrids that are smaller than wolves and larger than coyotes. These are fertile hybrids, stronger than coyotes, but appearing in areas where wolves can’t cope with the human development.

  • There are more article I have bookmarked, but I’ll save those for another vacation. See you next month!

Today is Earth Day! A lot of the other blogs have nice, handy lists of things you can do to help the environment (see some of the links at the bottom of this post). We’ve come a long way since the first Earth Day in 1970, thanks to many of the people who read this blog, the people I work with, and all of my environmentally-conscious friends and family. You all deserve a pat on the back. Since I won’t see most of you today, consider this an e-pat on the back and a big congratulations for all you do to help the Earth. Instead of telling you what you should be doing better, why don’t you tell me the things you do in the spirit of Earth Day, in the comments?

I’ll go first:

  • I’m vegetarian (for many reasons, but environmental conservation is one of them)
  • I use re-usable grocery bags
  • I always turn off the lights when I leave a room, and use mostly CFL bulbs
  • I recycle glass, paper, plastic, and aluminum. We’re saving our glass beer bottles for home-brewing. I reuse glass jars for dry food storage in my home.
  • I (attempt to) grow my own fruits, veggies, and herbs in a garden.
  • I try not to throw potentially useful things away. Instead, I give them away on Craig’s List or freecycle them. Conversely, I try to buy stuff I need or want used on Craig’s List or in thrift stores.
  • I fix things that are broken instead of replacing them, even when it might be easier or cheaper to just buy a new one.
  • I try to limit how much I drive, or ride my motorcycle when possible
  • I like to camp and hike, so some of my money goes to supporting national and state parks where I do these things.

Those are just a few things I do, but I know there are a lot more things I could and should be doing. I should ride my bike more often. I should start composting instead of throwing away food waste, and reuse more things in my kitchen in stocks, or freeze herbs and vegetables when I can’t use them all. There are always more things you can do, but it’s important to give yourself credit for the things you’re already doing.

From NASA’s Image Gallery (Image Credit NASA/JPL/UCSD/JSC):

Most ISS images are nadir, in which the center point of the image is directly beneath the lens of the camera, but this one is not. This highly oblique image of northwestern African captures the curvature of the Earth and shows its atmosphere.

The Earth’s atmosphere is composed of 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen and 1 percent other constituents, and it shields us from nearly all harmful radiation coming from the sun and other stars. It also protects us from meteors, most of which burn up before they can strike the planet. Affected by changes in solar activity, the upper atmosphere contributes to weather and climate on Earth.

From the Telegraph’s Earth Day photoset, the first view of the south polar ice cap, taken by the crew of Apollo 17 on December 7, 1972.

Other fun Earth Day links:

Earth Day 2009: 1970-2009: 39 Years of Environmental Awareness (University at Buffalo Libraries).
What Not To Do on Earth Day : TreeHugger.
How to Go Green Quiz : Planet Green.
Earth Day and Wildlife : Animal Planet (Animal videos!)