A blog set out to explore, archive & relate plastic pollution happening world-wide, while learning about on-going efforts and solutions to help break free of our addiction to single-use plastics & sharing this awareness with a community of clean water lovers everywhere!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Love That Dared Not Speak Its Name, Of A Beetle For A Beer Bottle

* I really love this article because it reminds me of "Storytelling to Get your Message Across" and it has lots of good pictures to go along with it. This is a tool that organizations could really use to share with young audiences, or audiences of any age reaally.  ~Melanie

It was early September — that's springtime in Western Australia — and two young biologists, Dwayne Gwynne and David Rentz, were on a field trip, wandering dirt roads near the highways, looking for insects, when one of them noticed a loose beer bottle lying on the ground — not so unusual in the Dongara region, where Australians zooming by often launch beer bottles from their car windows. This particular bottle was a "stubbie," squat, 370 milliliters, colored golden brown.

Emu beer bottle
When the two looked more closely, they saw something extra, hanging on the bottom end. It was a beetle, and it was fiercely gripping the glass. They shook it, and it wouldn't fall off. It wanted to be there.

Beetle on a bottle
Looking even closer, they recognized it as an Australian jewel beetle, and looking closer, they noticed it had (as they wrote later) its "genitalia everted — attempting to insert the aedeagus," which is a very polite way to say they were looking at a beetle attempting to mate with a glass container. Clearly, this was a very confused individual.

But then they found three more stubby beer bottles, and on two of them, surprisingly, were more male beetles, also "mounting" their bottles. That makes three frustrated males.

Hmmm. That got them interested. So they wandered about, found four loose stubbies, and placed them side by side on open ground where they could be seen by any male beetles flying overhead. "Within 30 minutes," they wrote later, "two of the bottles had attracted beetles. In total, 6 male beetles were observed to mount the stubbies. Once on the bottles, the beetles did not leave unless displaced by us."

Male beetles on bottle
More surprising, Gwynne and Rentz found one beetle hanging onto his bottle even while "a number of ants" were busy biting "the soft portions of his everted genitalia" — and still he stuck to his business. This was not just a pattern, this was a mission. What, the two scientists wondered, could explain these beetles' superallegiance to Australian beer bottles? It wasn't the beer. These males didn't gather at the spout end, and the bottles, the scientists said, were long dry.

The answer became obvious when they got a close look at a female Australian jewel beetle. Females, as it happens, are golden brown. They are big — much bigger than the males. But most important, they are covered, as you see here, with dimples, little bumps.

Female beetle
Australian beer bottles at the time (this happened in the 1980s) were also big, also golden brown, and down near the base they also had little bumps, arrayed very much like the bumps on a female jewel beetle.

Bottle bumps
Clearly, Gwynne and Rentz , the males were unable to distinguish between beer bottles and lady beetles. They thought — or rather their inner wiring told them — they were mating.

This is what biologists call "an evolutionary trap." It's what happens when birds, turtles, moths, beetles, all kinds of animals, wired to respond to certain cues in nature, bump instead into human inventions and get confused. They try to do the right thing — like having a little baby beetle, and end up spending hours scraping glass.

When sea turtles finish laying eggs on beaches, they look for moonlight over the ocean. The light tells them which direction leads back to the sea. Hotels with big lights on their end of the beach can confuse mother turtles, making them go the wrong way. Some hotels now douse their lights when sea turtles come to lay their eggs.

There are so many examples. Farmers in the Midwest used to put red insulators on their electric fences. Hummingbirds thought they were red flowers. If they touched the wire with their beaks, they died. The insulator company, when it realized what was happening, stopped using red paint, and farmers eventually substituted not-red models. As the world gets more crowded, some humans are learning to try — at least some of the time — to be less of a nuisance to other animals.

That, happily, is how our jewel beetle story ends. When beer companies in Australia learned that their bottles were having a discernible effect on the population of jewel beetles — so many males were spending useless hours fornicating, often dying under the hot Australian sun and leaving no heirs — the companies decided to change their bottles. The little bumps were eliminated to be replaced by smooth glass, the beetles lost all interest in bottles, and life in the Australian west — at least beetle life — went back to normal.

The problem is, this problem doesn't end. Humans keep inventing things. Animals keep bumping into these things, sometimes with very unhappy results, and we have to keep correcting our mistakes. That's one reason we've been given the big brains, I suppose, to help us undo the many things we've done when didn't even know we were doing them.

Thanks to Carl Zimmer, Radiolab regular and author of the wonderful blog, The Loom, and the , Jennifer Rehage of Florida International University and Andrew Sih of the University of California, Davis, got me thinking about all this. Also, thanks to two wonderful songwriters out of Britain, Flanders and Swann, who years ago wrote about the impossible love of an armadillo for an Army tank — one of the most poignant evolutionary traps ever. Their song includes these lines ...
Then I saw them in a hollow, by a yellow muddy bank
An Armadillo singing ... to an armour-plated tank.
Should I tell him, gaunt and rusting, with the willow tree above,
This - abandoned on manoeuvres - is the object of your love?

I left him to his singing,
Cycled home without a pause,
Never tell a man the truth
About the one that he adores.
And to further celebrate my theme, for those of you who want to see beetle/bottle footage from Australia, here's a BBC video which would be X-rated if you were an underage beetle unaccompanied by an adult.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Ideas For Change, Sylvia Earle

5 Ways to Spend World Oceans Day

Posted June 7, 2013 by Jon Bowermaster in takepart.com 

From seashore to desert, underwater to animation, protecting and preserving our one ocean gets global celebration.
World Oceans Day
Plastics pollution and oil spills are just two of many threats facing oceanic wildlife. (Photo: Wild Horizon/Getty Images)
The idea for setting aside a day each year to celebrate the ocean goes back to 1992, when it was first proposed by Canada at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

Like so many special days—whether they honor mothers or fathers, veterans or workers, victims or survivors—if you really care about the ocean, every day should be Oceans Day. Given the very real threats the ocean faces daily—overfishing, plastic pollution, climate change and acidification—we should be taking extra special care right now to make sure it stays alive and healthy.

World Oceans Day, which takes place June 8, is now a global event, orchestrated by the Ocean Project and the World Ocean Network. Officially recognized by the U.N. in 2008, the theme this year is “Together we have the power to protect the ocean.”

The challenge by the organizers is for communities and individuals on hundreds of beaches worldwide to launch celebrations and events, ranging from beach cleanups to raves, art contests to film festivals, in their own backyards.

With a goal of staging 1,000 global events, there are plenty to choose from. Some of the festivities include:
  • Tune into YouTube to visit “Reef Live” with a panel of experts for an underwater tour of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. A 12-hour Google Hangout allowed a worldwide audience to ask questions via Twitter to divers underwater. The project was spawned by the launch of Google’s Underwater Earth study, which gives the public a high-res, 360-degree panoramic view of underwater life, allowing for a kind of “virtual diving” from the comfort of your desk chair.
  • Aquariums across the U.S., like the venerable one in Mystic, CT, are hosting weekend-long events. The Mystic Aquarium hosts a program on the humpback whale’s migration from its feeding grounds in the North Atlantic to its Caribbean breeding grounds in a new exhibit, Animals Without Passports. It also encourages fishermen to bring their “derelict gear” to be recycled as part of a collaborative initiative dubbed “Fishing for Energy,” which converts the gear into renewable energy. The following day the seaside museum hosts a beach cleanup featuring ROV’s to find submerged marine junk.
  • On the other side of the planet, the Marine and Fishery Ministry of Indonesia hopes to raise awareness by simultaneously hosting a number of events in what it is calling Coral Triangle Day (June 9). The Coral Triangle—Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guineau, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands and Timor Leste—is home to 76 percent of the world’s coral and 37 percent of the world’s fish. It is also home to 120 million people, putting incredible pressure on the ocean as both a resource (fishing) and garbage dumping ground. Wide-ranging events include the premiere of a coral rehabilitation project in North Sulawesi, a puppet show in Bali and photography exhibits.
  • You don’t have to live near a coast to celebrate, as Las Vegas proves. Mandalay Bay celebrates the day at its Shark Reef Aquarium, as does Siegfried & Roy with their Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage. At the former, visitors can watch diving demos; at the latter, they can listen to a talk about how plastic is killing marine life. Spin the globe and in Dubai you can adopt your own endangered sea turtle, followed by a feast of (hopefully) sustainable tuna, sole, salmon and sashimi.
  • Even without leaving your computer you can join in the celebration by watching a new, two-minute animated video, narrated by the Queen of the Deep herself, Sylvia Earle. A product of the World Economic Forum and film company Lonelyleap, the coolly illustrated graphic reminds just how important it is to preserve and protect the ocean. Sylvia compares the ocean to the planet’s “blue heart” and encourages us—strongly—to Make...Better...Choices!
How are you celebrating World Oceans Day this weekend? Let us know in the Comments.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Garbage piling up beneath Monterey Bay, says MBARI

Click photo to enlarge
A young rockfish hides in a discarded shoe 1,548 feet deep in San Gabriel... ( (c) 2010 MBARI )
MOSS LANDING -- Look out across Monterey Bay, and one hardly thinks of a junkyard. But below the surface, decades of garbage have been piling up, a new study by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute shows.
Go 1,000 meters down, and it's still there. Go a mile down, it's still there. Go two miles down and beyond -- down to the limits of scientific exploration -- and it's still there. Old boots, tires, fishing gear and especially plastic, litter the ocean floor.

"Once it gets in the ocean, it's not going to get cleaned up," said Susan von Thun, a senior research technician at MBARI. "Especially with plastic or metal, it doesn't really break down. It'll be there for possibly thousands of years."

The study is based on 22 years of deep-sea video accumulated and cataloged by marine researchers. They decided to search their database and came up with more than 1,150 hits for human-produced garbage in the Monterey Bay region alone, much of it within the boundaries of a national marine sanctuary.

While there have been some eye-popping finds -- a shipping container full of 10,000 steel-belted tires lies at the bottom of the bay -- about a third of the findings were plastic, with about half of those being plastic bags.

That goes to the heart of an ongoing debate about single-use plastic bags, with the plastics industry recently helping defeat a proposed statewide bag ban, as well as a second bill, by Assemblymember Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, aimed at getting plastics producers to help cut back on pollution.

When the bag ban was defeated by three votes, the industry group American Progressive Bag Alliance hailed its victory, saying the proposal was based on "unfounded stats, junk science and myths."

Dave Asselin, executive director of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, reiterated the group's position in a statement Wednesday.

"We have not had a chance to review this particular study, but we do know that the rationale behind efforts to ban or tax plastic bags is largely based off of junk science and exaggerations," Asselin said.

The study is far more exhaustive that any prior examination of debris on the ocean floor, with MBARI's submarines routinely plumbing depths rarely seen by human eyes. Whether it makes a difference in the political debate about plastic bags remains to be seen. Wednesday, Stone held a previously scheduled legislative hearing that dealt with plastics and the marine environment.

Laura Kasa, executive director of Santa Cruz-based Save Our Shores, a group that holds beach cleanups throughout the region, said the study is another sign that plastic bags need to be banned.

"This is why it's so important that we prevent trash that people leave on the beach from getting into the ocean," Kasa said. "If one person doesn't think that it makes a difference, if they leave their piece of trash on the beach, they're wrong. It'll end up in the bottom of the ocean."

Von Thun said researchers combed through video for instances where marine life interacted with plastic and found several. They include plastic bags wrapped around deep coral -- which eventually will kill the coral -- and debris serving as habitat for anemonies and other marine life, giving them a home in areas they would not normally settle.

The study also found plastics and metals were more likely to be found in deeper waters, and researchers speculated that because Monterey Bay is a national sanctuary and subject to heightened environmental protections, it is likely that oceans elsewhere have a more significant problem.

"I was surprised that we saw so much trash in deeper water. We don't usually think of our daily activities as affecting life two miles deep in the ocean," said Kyra Schlining, the study's lead author. "I'm sure that there's a lot more debris in the canyon that we're not seeing."

Follow Sentinel reporter Jason Hoppin at Twitter.com/scnewsdude

Read another article about the Monterey Bay Findings in Mother Earth News:

EarthTalk: "All One Ocean" campaign

By EarthTalk | Posted: Thursday, June 6, 2013 9:40 am on the Hour.com
Dear EarthTalk: What is the “All One Ocean” campaign?  --Bill O’Neill, Los Angeles, CA

EarthTalk: All One Ocean

Bo Eide, courtesy Flickr

All One Ocean is a non-profit campaign launched in 2010 by long-time author, activist and organizer Hallie Austen Iglehart with the goal of reducing the amount of plastic and other trash that ends up in the ocean where it compromises the health of marine wildlife and ecosystems. Iglehart was incensed to learn that a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and turtles die each year from ingesting plastic in the water column—and created All One Ocean to do something about it.

Contrary to popular myth that most ocean pollution is oil spilled from ships, most of it is land-based litter. “The most dangerous litter is our throw-away plastic because of its longevity and capacity to increase in toxicity, eventually returning to the human food chain in a more lethal form,” reports Iglehart.

“Much of our plastic ends up in the ocean in giant collections of trash called gyres, created by circular ocean currents,” she adds. “They trap debris for decades where it continues to break into ever smaller, more toxic pieces, never fully biodegrading.” Of particular concern to Iglehart is the fact that much of this carelessly discarded plastic winds up in the bellies of marine life, contaminating not just ocean ecosystems but in some cases the very seafood on our dinner plates.

The main project of All One Ocean is the creation and maintenance of permanent, community supported Beach Clean Up Stations, which are essentially boxes containing reusable bags for beach visitors to use in picking up trash during their time on the sand and in the surf. The idea is to empty any garbage into a trash can somewhere (so it can find its way to a landfill instead of out into the ocean) and then ideally return the bag empty to the box. Each clean-up station also provides a sign with information on the extent of the problem and other ways individuals can help. The idea, according to Iglehart, is to provide “a simple, doable way for people to have fun cleaning up trash as they enjoy their beach activities.”

“The Beach Clean Up Station is a practical way to insure that clean up is happening everyday on all our beaches,” says Iglehart. “Like ‘adopt a highway’ campaigns, Beach Clean Up Stations create community around care for and education about these clean up hubs.”

She would like to see Beach Clean Up Stations in place at coastal and even freshwater beaches all around the world, but for now the group is starting out in Northern California. The first one was put in place at Limantour Beach at the Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County there, with several following at other San Francisco Bay area beaches. Iglehart hopes the campaign will encourage people to reconsider their consumption of single use plastics, since the production and distribution of such items contributes not just to the demise of the oceans but also to increased global warming.

Unlike many environmental issues that seem beyond our control, cleaning up beaches is something anyone can do and indeed every little bit helps. “Every tiny piece of human trash picked up,” Iglehart reminds us, “is one less toxin in someone’s stomach.”

CONTACT: All One Ocean, www.alloneocean.org.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

Why We Should All Make a Promise This World Oceans Day

Posted: 06/06/2013 in the Huffington Post by Maria Sowter

Held annually on the 8th June, World Oceans Day, aims to change people's perspectives and habits by educating them about the importance the ocean holds for the Earth. Events both online and offline across the globe celebrate the ocean as a unique source of life that connects us all on this planet.

This World Oceans Day (WOD), we're being asked to make one ocean promise to help save the ocean and the species that exist within it. Across the world people are making pledges to eat only sustainably sourced seafood, or to reduce the amount of water they waste. Others are focusing on reducing the pollution they create by using less plastic and electricity and by recycling or reusing what they own. By making a commitment to do just one thing for a year to help reduce their impact on the environment, people are embodying the 2013 theme of WOD - that we can all work together to save the world's oceans. Through use of social media and the hashtag #WorldOceansDay, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have all played an important part in connecting people to the cause, and are filled with photos of people holding signs of their promises.

Plastic pollution is a main source of concern for environmentalists when it comes to the world's oceans. Over 220 million tons of plastic are produced each year, much of which ends up as waste and ends up straying into the sea, harming wildlife and polluting earth's waters. What happens to this plastic has devastating effects on marine ecosystems and species. The North Pacific Gyre exists between North America and Japan and contains an estimated 3.5 million tons of rubbish debris, making it the world's largest landfill the size of Europe. Elsewhere, marine species such as sea turtles ingest floating plastic mistaking it for food, or become trapped in it. Plastic is the cause of more than a million seabirds and over 100,000 marine mammal deaths each year, whilst research has found that fish ingest an estimate of 12,000 to 24,000 tons of plastic per year in the Pacific Ocean which ends up in the human food chain.

Marine conservation projects across the globe have for a long-time worked to conserve the diverse flora and fauna of our underwater world. Projects that record the state of marine ecosystems, promote sustainability and work to help conserve numbers of endangered species, such as sea turtles, are vital in protecting the world's oceans. Voluntourism projects are part of this change as they educate a wide audience as to the importance of marine conservation, as well as provide invaluable manpower where needed. The ocean covers roughly 70 per cent of the world's surface; it generates most of the oxygen we breathe, helps to regulate our climates, clean the water we drink, is a source for potential medicines, and feeds us. For many communities, the ocean is their main source of food and economic income, but the need to protect the world's ocean effects everyone and requires global attention in order to succeed.

Author Maria Sowter, whose WOD promise is to reduce her use of plastic bags, is Online Content Editor at Frontier, an international non-profit volunteering NGO that runs 320 conservation, community, and adventure projects in 57 countries across the globe. She can be found blogging on Frontier's Gap Year Blog or posting on the Frontier Official Facebook page.

DNV Designs Ship to Combat Plastic Pollution in World’s Oceans

 Posted on (PRWEB) June 06, 2013 

Aquatic pollution, particularly plastic litter, is a serious environmental threat on a scale similar to CO2 in the atmosphere.

Spindrift concept vessel
Spindrift concept vessel
Plastic pollution in the ocean is everyone's problem.

By the end of this decade there will be an estimated 230 million tons of plastic polluting the world’s oceans, enough material to make 400 million two-liter beverage bottles. Plastic takes anywhere from 10 to 500 years to degrade in the ocean.

To call attention to this enormous but ‘quiet’ problem, DNV along with the World Wildlife Fund, has designed a revolutionary new ocean research vessel, the Spindrift, as part of a worldwide awareness-building effort.

"Like CO2, plastic pollution in the ocean is everyone's problem, and like CO2 all the solutions are not clearly visible at present," says Bjørn Haugland, DNV’s Chief Technology and Sustainability Officer. “This vessel concept will help us map the pollution concentrations of the world’s oceans and test the most efficient ways to remove as much plastic debris as possible, and to safely dispose of it.”

The Spindrift is an 85m single-hull vessel that can support 38 researchers for 90 days at sea. The ship is equipped from stem to stern with systems and ergonomics specifically engineered for finding and removing plastic litter from the ocean.

In addition to its research capabilities, the Spindrift can accommodate just about every debris collection technology now available. The flexibility of the concept will permit the vessel to accept new technologies and collection gear as they are developed.

For more information about the environmental issues of plastic in the world’s oceans, and to learn more about the Spindrift vessel concept, please visit http://www.dnv.com/plasticaquatic.

About DNV
DNV is a global provider of knowledge for managing risk. Today, safe and responsible business conduct is both a license to operate and a competitive advantage. Our core competence is to identify, assess, and advise on risk management. From our leading position in certification, classification, verification, and training, we develop and apply standards and best practices. This helps our customers safely and responsibly improve their business performance. DNV is an independent organization with dedicated risk professionals in more than 100 countries, with the purpose of safeguarding life, property and the environment.