Thursday, August 18, 2011

Why Did the Florida Panther Cross the Road?

I just got back from Cougar Country this past week. Well, actually it was Panther Paradise. The Bald Cypress National Preserve is home to many of the 100-150 remaining Florida Panthers. Even though the scientists we spoke to had seen panthers in the area, luck was not on our side for getting a glimpse of the rare and elusive cats. Even though the habitat we hiked through was perfect for these predators, factors such as increasing populations of panthers and increasing urban sprawl has pushed them closer to dangerous situations. This year alone 9 panthers have been killed by car collisions. That is a lot compared to how many are left in the wild. I found an article this week about what scientists are doing to provide safer passage for panthers when they move from one Everglades water conservations area to another. I believe it is a great idea for the benefit of all Floridian wildlife and hopefully will allow panther to pass freely through the region. Check out the article from the Sierra Club website: Panther at the Crossroads. and check out the AMAZING photos Heather Green took of Florida Panthers in the Bald Cypress National Preserve in her flickr photostream.

Friday, August 5, 2011

This I Believe: Mountains

This I Believe is a collection of short essays by people from all walks of life, famous and everyday. We all have a story and a belief. Our Natural Resources students this semester are going to read the essays and write their own essay about their connection with Natural Resources. I thought I would like to share one of my own.

I believe in mountains and their preservation. Returning from a long trip to Ohio, I saw the mountains again, and let out a breath, as if I were holding it all the while I was away. For me, the mountains are home. These are the rolling monuments of green forests that are home to a diverse array of ecosystems and creatures. They are the temples I have grown up around, but now they are in trouble.

When I looked upon the moonscape in front of me, I had the same initial shock one has when viewing the Grand Canyon. This time, it wasn’t a feeling of awe; moreover it was incomprehensible to my mind the size and bleakness of the destruction which stretched before me. The enormous area of rubble was a Mountaintop Removal mine in West Virginia. One of hundreds, just like it. The devastation was so horrible, I had to look away, but I couldn’t, my eyes glued to the scene of the murder. Yes, a murder. What was once a beautiful mountain, teeming with life is now a desolate moonscape. This mountain was brought to its knees by greed. Yours and my greed, for coal.

My great-grandfathers were both coal miners. They endured dangerous conditions, dark tunnels, and black coal dust to give their families a heat source. Coal powers thousands of power plants across the world which in turn run our; TVs, air conditioners, computers, refrigerators, clothes washers and phones. I can trace my electricity use back to the power plant, and even the mines where the coal comes from, including this very one I stood on.

But mountaintop removal is much more than a way to satisfy a country’s hunger for energy. It literally brings the whole mountain crashing down. The skin of the mountain is peeled away as the living forest is cleared, gone forever. Then its bones are broken as the very rock is blasted and dumped aside. Only then can the black blood from the veins of the mountain be extracted. An entire mountain vanishes from existence.

Maybe never will this once-skyscraper be the site of life which it used to know. Gone are the trees, flowers, birds, deer, bear and butterfly which called the mountain home. Moreover, mountaintop removal mines impact people. Homes are destroyed from the mining, sometimes buried under the rubble and rock removed from the peak. Toxic dust and metals leach into the air and water, affecting humans and wildlife far from the epicenter.

The mountains are so much a part of me; I feel the loss of that mountain, and many others like it. You can try to patch the scar, but it will never be the same again. This is why I also believe in green energy. Alternative energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal energy can sever our dependence on coal and save our mountains. These alternative sources of energy may not only save the mountains, but our world from increased Global Warming. As for the mountains, they are still part of me, no matter where I go.