Feeling the Spin

When I was a kid, I used to lie on my back in Golden Gate Park, or on Ocean Beach in San Francisco, or in the meadows of the Marin Headlands, and feel the Earth turn. I remember the feeling, spinning backwards (always backwards) through space. We hadn’t yet seen the images of the Earth…

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Fewer Footprints

When we were out on the Pacific Coast in California a couple of weeks ago, two things in particular caught my attention: One was the lack of shorebirds, the skittering types that chase waves and scurry in tight huddles. Maybe it was just the wrong season. There were signs posted indicating that snowy plovers were…

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Drinking From Your Neighbor’s Glass

In honor of World Water Day, here’s an interesting riddle: There are two kinds of water sources for a town, surface and underground. In times of adequate rain, that water can be used for human activities from farming to consumption to mining and so on. But let’s say the rain stops for a long time.…

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Forest Vs. Trees

Humankind owes its origins to forests. In return, we have been reshaping them for our own uses ever since we learned to use tools and fire. I’ve told the story before of how an Indonesian palm oil trader once explained to me, many years ago, that I needn’t worry about deforestation in Indonesia. Why? Because…

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A Stone on the Ledge

I want to talk about a couple of pieces of legislation that seem unrelated, namely new water regulations to deal with drought in California, and new Chinese laws making the purchase of illegal animals parts punishable by jail time. But first, I’d like to talk about a large white stone that sits atop a window…

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Certitude and Change

Images of this 1956 Pictorial Wildlife and Game Map of the United States have been kicking around the Internet for a while now. It caught my eye when I first saw it, but I’ve been pondering just why I find it so intriguing. Sure, it’s picturesque and pretty. It harks back to a cheery era…

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World Wildlife Day 2015

Today is World Wildlife Day 2015, which this year highlights the challenges of the illegal trade in wildlife. World Wildlife Day, on the 3rd of March, marks the day of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The global trade in wild animals and their…

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Ivory Trade Antics

There have been several elephant and ivory-related news items over the past few weeks, including a year-long ban on ivory imports announced by China this week, and the announcement by several Hong Kong retailers that they will no longer be selling elephant products. New regulations have just come into effect in the United States, one…

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Inadvertent Visitors

When I was a kid in northern California, we used to go to the ocean beaches of Marin County on the weekends. The long, sweeping scythes of Drake’s Beach and Limantour still count among my favorite ocean shorelines. Beachgoers wore swimsuits on warm days, but we could always tell the tourists from the locals because…

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Washed Up

Warmer water temperatures, reduced ability to fight illness, pathogens passed on from shellfish – it’s not quite clear which of these, or maybe which combination is raging through the sea star populations of the United States West Coast. But the fact is that millions of sea stars from Alaska to Mexico are wasting away, suddenly…

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