Keeping an eye on the ‘nesting boxes’ at the Pittsfield

bird housebird house

My son, Bill, led the construction and installation of a dozen “nesting boxes” for birds and bats on the east side of the Pittsfield branch last summer as one of the requirements to become an Eagle Scout. Library director Josie Parker supported the project as a reflection of the AADL’s commitment to capitalize on environmental principles...to operate more in harmony with the ecosystem. I'm keeping an eye on the project now that Bill’s off at college, and with spring coming, I hope other library patrons would post a comment if they see birds (or bats) actually occupying the boxes.

Transition Towns

PowerOf CommunityPowerOf Community

Last year Boulder, Colorodo was named the first Transition Town in the United States. The movement asks an entire community to address the concern, “how can our community respond to the challenges, and opportunities, of Peak Oil and Climate Change?” in the deepest way possible. At the end of this month Ann Arbor will host the first Transition Town Training session in the Midwest, which will be lead by Michael Brownlee and Lynette Marie Hanthorn of Transition Boulder County. For information on the training, registration and fees, see here. To understand the ins and outs of Transitioning, check out The Transition Handbook: From oil dependency to local self-reliance by Rob Hopkins. (Crazy Wisdom Bookstore is offering a 10% discount on this title for the month of January.) To see how a large community is handling things, check out the wonderful film The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil. (Film’s website here.)

Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count

Washtenaw Audubon SocietyWashtenaw Audubon Society

Looking for a break from the holiday hustle and bustle? Try a more relaxing weekend this Saturday, December 20th by joining up with the Washtenaw Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count. Each year for over a century the Audubon Society has organized local groups of birdwatchers to compile a list of all the birds spotted across the continent. The results help researchers track bird populations and identify habitats at risk. You can be a part of this international effort (and hone your bird identification skills) by signing up with the local chapter of the National Audubon Society.

The Power of Community

When the world reaches peak oil, it will be an entirely new experience for us all with the exception of one small country. Cuba has already had a “peak oil” experience imposed on them, with the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early '80s. All their supplies of oil were cut off and they were thrust into a national emergency of food and energy shortages.

How they survived that period in their history and actually created new systems of efficient, sustainable energy and food production is the subject of The Power of Community. Forced to rediscover the bicycle for transportation; oxen and horses for farming; smaller-scale, organic farms and urban micro-farms for raising food; and neighborly cooperation for solving their crisis locally they have paved the way for thriving in the new era of oil scarcity and $4 dollar gallons of gas. A very inspiring and beautifully told story.

For a kick-start along the path of a less oil-dependent model for agriculture read about Community Supported Agriculture and urban gardening.

Dec. 6, 1947 - Everglades National Park, Florida dedicated by President Harry S Truman

"Here are no lofty peaks seeking the sky, no mighty glaciers or rushing streams wearing away the uplifted land. Here is land, tranquil in its quiet beauty, serving not as the source of water, but as the receiver of it. To its natural abundance we owe the spectacular plant and animal life that distinguishes this place from all others in our country." With these words, Truman formally dedicated Everglades National Park. This event culminated years of effort by a dedicated group of conservationists to make a national park in the Florida Everglades a reality. For a fascinating and comprehensive history of this amazing wetland, check out Michael Grunwald's The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise. Thinking of visiting the park? Check out Hidden Florida Keys and Everglades or Adventure guide to the Florida Keys & Everglades National Park.

Raise your environmental I.Q.

A great local resource for information on environmental issues in the Great Lakes States is The Great Lakes Natural Resources Center which is a regional unit of the National Wildlife Federation. Their website includes factsheets on global warming's effects on Michigan climate, proposed electric generation changes and much more. There is also current news on conserving Michigan's water rights and the future impact of green technology on the auto industry. You can learn about programs the Center is initiating like legal action against sulfide mining operations that threaten the Lake Superior Basin. Check out this valuable resource to stay on top of the news about how to maintain the beauty and ecology of Michigan. Also, check out the Library's excellent collection of books on the Great Lakes.

Save Energy at Home

The weather is getting colder, and it is becoming more and more apparent that my house is not very energy efficient. This concerns me because I am interested in environmental issues. And more importantly, I want my utilities bills to be cheap. So what is one to do? Well, one should go to the library and find some handy books on how to save energy (and money) at home. Here’s what I’m reading:

The Energy Saving House
Fun book from French authors who work with the eco-centre Terre Vivante. Very technical at times, but very interesting. Do you know what a negawatt is?

Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings
This tried and true best-seller has several editions. The 9th is the most recent. The book has lots of practical advice, and a lot of the fixes are quick and relatively cheap and easy. Just my style.

Plants In The News

Pulp Tree

So when you bring the green indoors this winter the plants may say "thank you".

Maybe you heard about Midori the blogging houseplant. Midori lives in Donburi Cafe in Kamakura Japan.

Just as plants are finding a voice in Japan the government of Switzerland has placed a ban on the humiliation of plants.

Read about the botanical interface that makes plant blogging possible and check out a product that will help you listen to your own plant.

Interested in this topic, check out these books: Plantwatching: how plants remember, tell time, form partnerships, and more / Malcolm Wilkins and Natural affairs: a botanist looks at the attachments between plants and people / Peter Bernhardt

As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial

Is there anything funny about global warming? Derrick Jensen, a committed and very serious environmental activist, manages to find some thin threads of humor behind the despair in As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial. In the format of a graphic novel, he tells a fable-like story of the Earth versus big business; environmentalists versus profiteers; creatures (yes, snails and foxes and a one-eyed bunny) versus dam builders. The result manages to score the point: if we don’t change our direction, we will end up where we are headed. Other titles by Jensen include Thought to Exist in the Wild, which presents the case against zoos, and How Shall I Live My Life?, interviews with ten progressive thinkers about resisting the dominant culture of excess.

Chronic Wasting Found in Michigan Deer

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and DNR confirmed the first known case of chronic wasting in deer in Michigan at a private deer facility. There is no evidence that it has spread to the wild population yet but DNR is asking hunters this fall to take their deer to check stations for sampling so the wild population can be better studied.

Chronic Wasting Disease affects deer, elk and moose and is believed to be caused by prions. You may have heard of prions before as the cause of Mad Cow Disease. Unlike Mad Cow Disease which has been shown to carry over into humans, there are no known human infections of chronic wasting. For more information about prion diseases you may be interested in the book The pathological protein : Mad Cow, Chronic Wasting, and other deadly prion diseases

For those interested in the Michigan side of things, the Michigan government has a site devoted to chronic wasting disease in Michigan along with information on other emerging diseases such as Bovine TB.

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