Category Archives: Travel

Good News Monday: Nature in Review

The World Wildlife Fund reports positive developments in this otherwise hellish year.

“The last 12 months have brought hardship to every corner of the globe that we have not collectively experienced in generations. But they have also brought us closer in unexpected ways and shown us just how connected we all are; that people and nature are intrinsically linked.”

YEAR IN REVIEW

© naturepl.com / Inaki Relanzon / WWF

World’s first solar-powered LED fishing net helps sea turtles swim free
Hundreds of thousands of turtles are unintentionally caught by commercial fishing vessels every year. WWF partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and scientist Jesse Senko of Arizona State University to design the world’s first solar-powered LED fishing net. This year, the team is working together with the manufacturer to scale and produce the nets.

Tiger spotted at record-high elevation in Nepal 

Images from a new camera trap reveal the highest-elevation sighting of a tiger in Nepal, captured at over 8,000 feet in a densely forested area. High-altitude habitats may provide refuge for tigers and help connect their territory between Nepal and India. The finding also expands understanding of tiger habitats now that there is evidence of their use of high-altitude areas.

Bengal tiger and cub

© naturepl.com / Andy Rouse / WWF

Rear view of a young girl riding a horse and wrangling a cow in a vast grassland with a hilly landscape in the background

© WWF / Becca Skinner© THOMAS SZAJNER/WWF-US

Partnering with communities and companies to invest in the future of America’s grasslands

A new project produced in collaboration with private landowners across North America’s Northern Great Plains will help improve one million acres of grassland to help fight the climate crisis. WWF joins forces with The Walmart Foundation, McDonald’s, and Cargill to invest more than $6 million in this initiative.

100 bison find a new home with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe

WWF partnered with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe; their economic arm, REDCO; and Rosebud Tribal Land Enterprise to secure nearly 28,000 acres for what will become North America’s largest Native-owned and managed bison herd. The new Wolakota Buffalo Range can support 1,500 bison and is a hallmark of WWF’s partnership with Native nations to develop healthy bison herds for conservation.

A greater one-horned rhino chews a mouthful of grass

© Gordon Congdon / WWF

a man sits on the front of a small boat in blue waters and cuts a piece of farmed seaweed off its line

© WWF-Malaysia / Eric Madeja

Rhinos make a comeback in India’s Manas National Park

The greater one-horned rhinos in Manas National Park—their population once completely decimated by poaching—are making a comeback thanks to joint conservation efforts under the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 initiative. 

Today, there are around 3,700 greater one-horned rhinos in Asia, up from only 200 at the beginning of the 20th century.

WWF’s first impact investment: seaweed farming

WWF has invested in Ocean Rainforest, a small for-profit company that operates a seaweed nursery, farms, and processing facility around the North Atlantic’s Faroe Islands. Seaweed is a fast-growing marine vegetable that is both a nutritious food source and—because it is highly efficient at absorbing CO2—a valuable carbon sink.

The venture marks WWF-US’s first effort designed to accelerate innovative business ideas that generate positive environmental outcomes as well as financial returns.
© GARETH BENTLEY/WWF-US

Namibia’s conservancies get a lifeline for people and wildlife

The COVID-19 pandemic has reached every corner of the world and has had sweeping negative impacts to people and communities, threatening lives and livelihoods.

As communities try to cope in the short term, the Namibian government, civil society, and passionate conservationists have rallied—with support from WWF and key partners—to help fill the void the pandemic has created. The Conservation Relief, Recovery and Resilience Facility (CRRRF) fund was developed—a coordinated national effort to provide immediate financial relief to Namibian conservancies affected by COVID-19.

great barrier reef aerial

© James Morgan / WWF

aerial view of pebble mine site

© Laura Margison / WWF-US

Working with companies to solve the plastic crisis

From coastal shores to the Arctic to coral reefs, plastic pollution negatively affects all ecosystems.

WWF analyzed the plastic use of five companies, including McDonald’s Corporation and The Coca-Cola Company, and identified just how much plastic companies were using and where it went after its disposal. Adding 100 more companies to the project could keep more than 50 million metric tons of plastic out of nature over time.

Rejection of mining permit marks important milestone in protection of Bristol Bay

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has denied a permit for developers to build the controversial Pebble Mine in Alaska, marking an important moment in the decade’s long effort to protect Bristol Bay. This marks a huge win in the fight to protect this iconic, biodiverse landscape.
© CAMBODIA WWF/GERRY RYAN

Critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins and the world’s most productive freshwater fishery saved from destructive dam

After years of scientific research, advocacy, and community and government engagement by WWF-Cambodia and other partners, the government of Cambodia abandoned plans to build the Sambor hydropower dam on the Mekong River and put a 10-year halt on future dam construction on the river’s main artery.

A free-flowing Mekong protects the world’s most productive freshwater fishery and supports breathtaking biodiversity, including the largest population of Irrawaddy river dolphins on Earth. WWF-Cambodia is poised to support federal development of a sustainable energy plan that promotes clean and renewable energy alternatives while keeping the mighty Mekong intact.

Seed-dispersing drones help rebuild koala populations devastated by bushfires

In response to the 2019-2020 bushfire crisis in Australia, WWF launched the largest and most innovative wildlife and nature regeneration program in the country’s history. The goal is to double koala numbers on the east coast of the country by 2050, with the hope that the recovery of this species will also benefit other local species, as well as boost the local economy of regional communities. WWF is using specialized drones to disperse eucalyptus seeds, with some models able to plant 40,000 seeds per day.

View from behind of a man flying a drone low to the ground among trees
Workers unloading tuna fish catch, largely skipjack, Tema port, Ghana

© Kyle LaFerriere/WWF-US

The Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability drafts first-ever global standards for seafood traceability

As part of an industry forum that includes more than 70 companies across the seafood supply chain, WWF released the first-ever global standards for tracking seafood products from source to sale. So far nearly 50 brands—including grocery chain Whole Foods Market—have committed to begin implementing these ocean-saving standards.

Communication

Photo by Valeriia Miller on Pexels.com

Fascinating news, shared from TheEndangeredMind622:

Kangaroos can learn to communicate with humans, researchers say

Kangaroos can learn to communicate with humans similar to how domesticated dogs do, by using their gaze to “point” and ask for help, researchers said in a study published on Wednesday.

The study involved 11 kangaroos that lived in captivity but had not been domesticated. Ten of the 11 marsupials intently gazed at researchers when they were unable to open a box with food, according to the report. Nine alternately looked at the human and at the container, as a way of pointing or gesturing toward the object.

“We interpreted this as a deliberate form of communication, a request for help,” Alan McElligott, the Irish researcher who led the study, told Reuters in a call from Hong Kong.

“Wild species are not really expected to behave as those subjects were, and that’s why it is surprising.”

The findings challenge the notion that only domesticated animals such as dogs, horses or goats communicate with humans, and suggests many more animals could grasp how to convey meaning to humans, the paper asserts.

“We’ve previously thought only domesticated animals try to ask for help with a problem. But kangaroos do it too,” concluded co-researcher Alexandra Green from the University of Sydney.

“It’s more likely to be a learned behaviour when the environment is right.”

SYDNEY, Dec 16 (Reuters). Reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney; Editing by Karishma Singh.

………………………………..

This is all very cool. Now, my question is:

Can kangaroos teach humans how to communicate with each other???

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

COVID-19 Spending and Saving

Perhaps the only upside to what I call the “pandammit” is that I’m not shopping like a drunken socialite, to quote my friend S. Which doesn’t mean I’ve stopped shopping altogether; it’s more that I’m buying different things.

Big-ticket items flew out the window as life got simpler and our activities remain close to home. Meanwhile, entire categories (hello, hand sanitizer) became essentials. What a topsy-turvy world! (Google reports that the expression “may be an adaptation of the medieval verb ‘tirve’, meaning ‘to turn or to topple over’. It has also been suggested that ‘turvy’ is an allusion to ‘turf’ and that ‘topsy-turvy’ means ‘with one’s head on the turf’.”) 

Spending more

  • Amazon – miscellaneous household items, esp. hard to get stuff
  • Whole Foods delivery in the early months
  • Fresh fruits and veggies from farmers’ market and small specialty grocers
  • Cooking gadgets
  • Wine and booze – do you even have to ask why?
  • TV streaming services
  • Zoom membership
  • Books
  • Vitamins, supplements, acetaminophen PM
  • Face masks — whoever predicted one would need a wardrobe of these?!
  • Cute socks
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Fresh flowers to maintain sanity and illusion of elegant normalcy

Saving more

  • Makeup, especially lipstick – kind of pointless when wearing a mask, no?
  • Hair salon – spreading out appointments and doing trimming/touch-ups myself until desperate
  • Pedicures – My toes are not worth dying for
  • Restaurants
  • New clothes – to go where, exactly?
  • Travel
  • Cultural events/theatre/opera tix
  • Massages and facials (see pedicure)

Yep, things are definitely tirving these days.

photo of inverted woman on wooden chair

Photo by Wendy Wei on Pexels.com

 

 

 

Captive Audience

From the Department of What’s The World Coming To…

Barcelona’s Liceu opera reopened on Monday. Its first concert was performed in front of an audience of plants, NPR reports. Much nicer for the performers, I surmise, as at least plants don’t cough, rattle candy wrappers, and forget to shut off their cell phones.

Then again, this plant appears to have nodded off.

white flower on green leaf plant

Photo by Nadezhda Moryak on Pexels.com

The Pandemic Ten

Remember the “freshman 15”, aka the pounds everyone seemed to gain their first year at college? It’s déjà vu all over again.

Back in the day, the culprits were pizza, beer (and/or weed), and nerve-wracking new experiences like late-night cramming and unprecedented freedom.

This is different, and not just because I’m older. Month after month of the same old, same old has led to inertia and tedium with a constant low hum of anxiety buzzing along underneath.

I don’t really care what the government is recommending… Dear Husband and I are staying put except for essential and unavoidable tasks. Since we can’t travel or eat out with friends, we’ve amused ourselves by cooking food from different cultures and pretending to be elsewhere. Unlike traveling, however, we are not burning calories by walking extra miles through cities, museums, and the like. Even my Fitbit is bored.  The result: packing on extra poundage like a wild animal in captivity.

Like many of you, I eat when I’m stressed even if I’m not physically hungry. And what I’ve realized, as my own little world keeps shrinking — while I’m not — is how many of my essential needs aren’t being met… which leads to stress… which leads to snacking.

  • Order and control. Toss this one right out the window. We have no idea when this will end and can’t do much about it except to continue social distancing and wearing a mask. Plus, staying informed is highly overrated when so much of the news is just plain sickening.
  • Anticipation. It’s hard to plan for a trip or special event when there’s nothing on the calendar.  And being worried about catching the virus en route does dim one’s enthusiasm.
  • Personal space.  If you’re someone who needs lots of alone time, a pandemic is not your friend.
  • Sleep. Stress and worry make sleep elusive, or fitful at best. Which in turn affects your body’s balance of the hunger hormones ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin stimulates appetite, while leptin decreases it. When the body is sleep-deprived, ghrelin levels spike, while the level of leptin falls, leading to an increase in hunger, especially for junk food. (I don’t know how it knows, but it does.)
  • Variety of experiences. When going to the grocery store is the weekly highlight, life’s a little blah no matter how nice your home or neighborhood is.

Anyway, it’s useful to know the triggers. Now I need to get serious about my action plan, as I refuse to buy a larger-size wardrobe. Who’s with me?

photo of a burn fat text on round blue plate

Photo by Natasha Spencer on Pexels.com

 

 

 

Wistful Thinking

There are so many things I miss these days, from the prosaic to the profound.  Among them:

  • Free samples at Costco and Trader Joe’s
  • Visiting with my kids
  • Dinner out with friends
  • Responsible government leadership
  • A proper haircut
  • A decent pedicure
  • My group exercise class
  • Anxiety-free sleep
  • News that’s actually news
  • Space to roam
  • My waistline

But perhaps the one thing I miss most of all is the anticipation of upcoming travel.  For those of us who love a change of scenery — whether exotic or familiar — there is something deeply satisfying about planning a trip down to the last detail, while leaving lots of room for unexpected developments. (The good kind, not the “oh s*** I’m suddenly quarantined in a foreign country” kind.)

I’m enjoying vicarious adventures through other bloggers’ posts, but we all know it’s hardly the same.  Having cancelled our London trip planned for March, and now deciding not to play “beat the odds” with the trip to France we’d scheduled for this summer, I feel a bit adrift.

And wondering… what do YOU miss most these days?

airplane window view of airplane wing and clouds

Photo by Chait Goli on Pexels.com

More on Cell Phones

Good info on disinfecting your cell phone. In short, clean the screen and case with a disinfecting wipe, being careful not to get liquid in it.  Do this especially after using it in public places.

Better yet, keep it in a plastic zip bag when you’re out and about. (Is that even still a thing?)

On the bright side, maybe this will be the end of people taking endless selfies.

Good News Monday: Stemming the Tide

Amid concerns about the spread of COVID-19, here’s a practical and uplifting guide to managing our anxieties.

As the author writes in today’s New York Times, the good news is that “even in the face of fear, we do have the capacity to act in ways that would help limit contagion during an epidemic.  (If link doesn’t work, here is the article.)

(NY Times)

Are you fearful about catching the coronavirus? Are you anxious about whether you’re properly prepared for its arrival? You’re in good company.

In the past few days, I’ve had more than a few patients call or email to ask me to double or even triple the dosage of their prescription antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication so that they could have a bigger supply on hand “just in case.”

Throughout the country, people are stockpiling food in anticipation of a shortage or a quarantine. Supplies of Purell hand sanitizer flew off the shelves in local pharmacies and are now hard to find or even unavailable online.

I understand the impulse to secure one’s safety in the face of a threat. But the fact is that if I increase the supply of medication for my patients, I could well deprive other patients of needed medication, so I reluctantly declined those requests.

As a psychiatrist, I frequently tell my patients that their anxieties and fears are out of proportion to reality, something that is often true and comforting for them to realize. But when the object of fear is a looming pandemic, all bets are off.

In this case, there is reason for alarm. The coronavirus is an uncertain and unpredictable danger. This really grabs our attention, because we have been hard-wired by evolution to respond aggressively to new threats. After all, it’s safer to overact to the unknown than to do too little.

Unfortunately, that means we tend to overestimate the risk of novel dangers. I can cite you statistics until I am blue in the face demonstrating that your risk of dying from the coronavirus is minuscule compared with your risk of dying from everyday threats, but I doubt you’ll be reassured. For example, 169,000 Americans died by accident and 648,000 died of heart disease in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of Sunday morning 19 Americans had died from the coronavirus.

The reason this probably doesn’t make you feel better is simple: Just as we tend to assume the worst about novel threats — the safest, if not the most statistically justifiable, strategy — we tend to underestimate the danger of familiar risks because we are habituated to them. We are not very rational when it comes to assessing risk.

The good news is that even in the face of fear, we do have the capacity to act in ways that would help limit contagion during an epidemic. Specifically, we can behave altruistically, which benefits everyone.

For example, research shows that when people are told that it is possible — but not certain — that going to work while sick would infect a co-worker, people are less willing to stay home than when they are reminded of the certainty that going to work sick would expose vulnerable co-workers to a serious chance of illness. Stressing the certainty of risk, in other words, more effectively motivates altruism than stressing the possibility of harm.

The lesson for the real world is that health officials should be explicit in telling the public that selfish responses to an epidemic, such as going to work while sick or failing to wash your hands, threaten the health of the community.

There are other ways to encourage selfless behavior. For example, another study examined the neural activity of people while they played a game in which they made either generous or selfish choices to award or withhold money. The researchers found that when subjects made selfish decisions, the brain’s reward center was activated, whereas when they made generous decisions, a region of the brain implicated in empathy lit up. This suggests that people are more likely to be altruistic if they are primed to think of others and to imagine how their behavior might benefit them.

There is no question that we can all be encouraged to act in the interest of our fellow humans during perilous times. Specifically, public figures need to convey loudly and clearly that we should not go to work or travel when we’re sick and that we should not hoard food and medical supplies beyond our current need — not just give us health statistics or advise about how to wash our hands.

But that will require morally authoritative leaders who can inspire the better angels of our nature by reminding us that we are all in this epidemic together.

Richard A. Friedman is a professor of clinical psychiatry and the director of the psychopharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical College, and a contributing opinion writer. 

Good News Monday: It’s Dad’s Turn

For generations, it’s been assumed that only mommies need to change their kids’ diapers in public places. What else could explain the general shortage of changing tables in men’s restrooms?

To remedy that, Pampers and Koala Kare have joined forces. Their goal: to install 5000 changing stations in men’s bathrooms in the US and Canada by 2021. So far, nearly 2000 have been added to libraries, parks and other public spaces.

Change is in the air, and it’s long overdue.

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