Environment

by Carola Lott

Dr. Jonathan Cole, senior scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors a scientist can receive. Gene Likens, who hired Cole shortly after founding the institute in 1983, said of him, “His research has led to a better understanding of how lakes and rivers function, especially with regard to food webs, microbial activity, and carbon dynamics.”  

When Cole was eight, after seeing the Jacques Cousteau film “World without Sun,” he wanted to be an oceanographer. When he got to college at Amherst, however, he discovered that Amherst had no oceanography or marine biology program, although “they did have a great professor, Dr. Stuart Fisher, who taught limnology.” Dr. Cole describes limnology, the study of inland waters, as “freshwater oceanography, … and [it] includes the physics, chemistry, geology and biology of these systems.” 

by Carola Lott

Elizabeth Kolbert, whose latest book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, was published in February, will speak at the Salisbury School on Friday May 2, at 7:30 p.m.

Kolbert began focusing on the environment in 1999, after she left the New York Times for the New Yorker. She felt the magazine would be a good place to write about climate change, which was already convincing scientists of its importance. The situation has not improved since then. In fact, climate change and the emissions of carbon dioxide are now threatening to extinguish much of the life on the planet. 

Since life began on earth 3.8 billion years ago, there have been five extinctions—all caused by external events. Today the threat of extinction comes not from an external event but from one species, human beings. “This time, however, a giant asteroid isn’t to blame,” Kolbert writes. “We are, by altering environmental conditions on our planet so swiftly and dramatically that a large proportion of other species cannot adapt.” 

by Tonia Shoumatoff

The Housatonic Valley Association (HVA) will be working with Dover High School students on a project that will restore portions of the Seven Wells Brook with plantings, monitor water quality and teach students environmental practices.

Grants from Iroquois Gas Transmission System and Berkshire Taconic Foundation’s Northeast Dutchess fund totally $6,600 support the project that will study and apply techniques to alleviate stormwater as a source of pollution.  After measurements are taken by students and HVA staff at two selected sites, the results will be compared so that students can see the effect of runoff from parking lots and roofs on water quality.

by Tonia Shoumatoff

A film that celebrates the beauty and fragility of songbirds in Europe takes on the daunting task of addressing what it takes to save them and change the centuries old cultural traditions of eating them.  Roger Kass and his brother Doug, produced and directed the film, “Emptying the Skies,” based on Jonathan’s Franzen’s New Yorker story.  The filmmakers embedded themselves in physically threatening situations where poachers were confronted by a small band of activists called the Committee against Bird Slaughter (CABS).  

Filmed in Cyprus, France, Italy and Germany, the film poignantly shows what it takes to save a single bird’s life and liberate it from nets, traps, and glue sticks and other medieval contraptions one bird at a time.  Viewers will learn that five billion birds migrate through Europe on their way to Africa and West Asia.  Over half of those bird species are threatened.

by Tonia Shoumatoff

A film that celebrates the beauty and fragility of songbirds in Europe takes on the daunting task of addressing what it takes to save them and change the centuries old cultural traditions of eating them.  Millbrook resident Roger Kass and his brother Doug, produced and directed the film, “Emptying the Skies,” based  on Jonathan’s Franzen’s New Yorker story.  The filmmakers embedded themselves in physically threatening situations where poachers were confronted by a small band of activists called the Committee against Bird Slaughter (CABS).  

Filmed in Cyprus, France, Italy and Germany, the film poignantly shows what it takes to save a single bird’s life and liberate it from nets, traps, and glue sticks and other medieval contraptions one bird at a time.  Viewers will learn that five billion birds migrate through Europe on their way to Africa and West Asia.  Over half of those bird species are threatened.

Great promise for enlightened forest, land, and water management

Any tool that helps us understand what we humans are doing to the planet is welcome. This one is a doozy.

We now have a skyhigh diety’s view of land, all land. The images are simply riveting. You can’t stop looking at them. Best of all, they are internally consistent—that is, objective over time. Comparing one image to the next is an apple to the same apple, not what some agriculture minister wants us to think is an apple.

All of this work is thanks to a team of scientists in the discipline of remote sensing from NASA, the United State Geological Survey, Google Earth, and University of Maryland, with financial help from the Moore and Packard Foundations. From space, the view resolves to 30 meters, enough to see forest loss and gain, the effects of climate change, water uses, the status of habitat, population shifts, pest infestations—the uses beguile the imagination.

by Carola Lott

New York lost four thousand farms and half a million acres of farmland to housing developments, strip malls and big-box stores in the last 25 years. More than 80 percent of the fruits, vegetables and dairy products produced in New York State are raised near urban areas, on land threatened by encroaching development.

These are the facts that the American Farmland Trust has been bringing home to policymakers in Albany and Washington for more than 50 years, and they think they are at last gaining traction. More people understand, more people are taking up the cause of farm preservation and more people are supporting their local farms. 

More colleges, senior centers and other community institutions are seeking locally grown food. And land trusts, private landowners and others are making land available to young farmers, immigrants, veterans and others who are looking for a way to farm or expand their farm businesses.