Here you will find posts offering the environmental version of ‘what would you do.” There are no right, nor wrong answers of course--we just hope to challenge your perspective and encourage discussion on related scenarios that will test your ethical nature. Please feel free to add one of your own nature-related situations! We would love to join in the discussion :)

Now, what would you do...

Sep 22, 2010

Flower Grenades and Seed Bombs

This was seen in my latest Mental Floss magazine’s “Watercooler Ammo” e-mail, an enthusiasitc paragraph about “Flower Grenades.” These cermamic grenades are distributed by a UK company named Suck UK, they are filled with wildflower seeds (in this case buttercups poppies and ryegrass), designed to encourage guerilla gardening in empty lots, sidewalks and municipal scrubland “where nothing can grow.” The idea is to turn urban areas into wilderness.

The company says it will not ship outside of UK. I’m not sure if that is for security purposes (after all these are grenade look-alikes) or for invasive species purposes, or both. Either way, I’m glad they won’t, but it makes me wonder how many U.S. companies will join in this re-visited trend.

Seed-bombing has been around, and these green grenades are designed by artist Tony Minh Nguyen and Snowhome were seemingly born of an earlier project (Bio-Grenade, 2008) which Tony Minh Nguyen describes:

"Paradox of construction-destruction ran this idea. Instead of the grenade form leaving a detrimental impact it disperses life. Designers are ultimately the ones that determine how products respond to our environment. With this responsibility comes the careful consideration of what materials one should use to reduce a product’s impact. There is no better time then now to start thinking about tomorrow. For the paper pulp I recycled blank newsprint discarded from Savannah Morning News. The wildflower seeds used are native to 48 states not including Hawaii and Alaska."

It's a great concept, I love his message. Maybe (big maybe!) I can get behind the idea of using species native to most all states, but the reality is it doesn’t take into consideration the vast environmental niches within each state and variety of ecosystems found throughout any environment. I love the thought behind the message and even its intent—hey, how about extemely localized seed-banks offering a community day where we could go seed bomb crazy in the empty lots around town—on a non windy day, with good public education on the importance of native species and the controversy regarding invasives? But don’t sell them! Fact is, they will travel. And the point is, many of our native wildflowers species that grow in our little patch of desert are so localized, they are not found anywhere else…not in other states, nor other parts of California, and not even in other deserts split by a shared mountain range!

I have a big problem with these, the idea of one being thrown out of car windows by “well-meaning” visitors who see nothing but a barren desert landscape makes me cringe to the core. It's like people "setting their pets free." The human variable. What one sees as barren and lifeless, another has learned about the 100’s of hidden plant species, alive and thriving in a delicately balanced desert ecosystem. We battle invasive plants out here like crazy, the non-native species adversely affecting natural water sources (stealing this precious resource at a rate that true plant natives can not adapt quickly enough to recover), choking out perennial and annual natives, and taking over entire sections of protected land, with seasonal armies of volunteers just trying to keep up with these human introduced intruders.

These flower grenades are warfare, but not with the kind intentions that they were probably meant to be. Unfortunately, even with so-called native species in the mix, they are short-sided "beautification" impulses leading to long-term battles.

Image: Suck UK.com

Sep 17, 2010

Hazards In The Sky

As fall approaches, it signals the seasonal beginnings of celebration. When we celebrate truly important events in our lives, like holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, babies being born and more, could we be putting wildflife and the natural environment at risk?

Many of you are familiar with Caliso ambassadors Taco, Guacamole, and Rufus, our desert tortoises. Something easy to demonstrate to visitors is the attraction of a piece of deflated balloon placed on the ground or hanging from a cactus pad looking just like cactus fruit or a colorful blossom—two of the desert toroise’s favorite foods. 10 times out of 10, our tortoises will go investigate the popped balloon and sometimes even try to eat it (of course they never get the chance to get it near their mouth). The point is to demonstrate that the fun and festive act of releasing balloons can have a devastating effect on native critters on land or in the sea many, even hundreds of miles away. These balloons simply look like the prey or plant food sources that many species rely on for their survival. Instead animals might ingest a balloon causing sickness and death because of blockages from this indigestable material—resulting in a preventable scenario of an animal that starved to death.

We’re not suggesting we should ban balloons. Or should we? Balloons can be celebrated with, if we don’t let them go! Pop them first. But that’s not a guarantee. We’ve never used balloons at our community booths as a stand against them. Yet, just last month we celebrated my son’s 4th birthday and we had balloons for his indoor party. About half way through the party, the thought occurred to me that it is possible one or more of these balloons that go home with a child could be accidently released. Ugh. Feeling the shame.

In a similar example I came across an article about Sky Lanterns, or Chinese Lanterns. These are rounded paper lanterns with a lit candle inside which are released into the night sky. It’s makes for a beautiful, celebratory moment. But lately in the UK farmers are complaining about the lanterns becoming a big enivornmental hazard, seen as floating potentials for setting wildfires because they frequently fall back down to the ground smoldering or actually on fire (despite the flame-resistent paper it’s made of). Equally devasting is that the thin wire (used to make the lanterns, which the paper is wrapped around) is being picked up and cut up in harvesting machines for feed then being consumed by cattle, becoming a lethal needle inside the animal. In addition, these lanterns are often mis-identified as distress flares and UFOs.

So what are we to do about these festive accessories? How culturally significant are balloons and lanterns and should that be considered? Many communities are banning plastic shopping bags as a responsible solution to trash problems and wildlife injuries.

What is the right solution for balloons or sky lanterns? We want to hear from you! Share your thoughts with us—or simply start a conversation about it at your next family meal.

Images: bbc.com