Kids, Wildlife, and Winter

“The bottom-line at the end of the day, when the kids and their parents share the excitement of being outdoors, it changes the heartbeat of a family.”  Tom Rusert, Sonoma Birding

Winter has come to our Northern California Coast

Storm of headlands

Mid-sea rain
Photo: Katy Pye
All rights reserved

My docent days at the lighthouse are quieter. Fewer guests come to visit when it rains and now that summer vacations are over.

PCLH winter

Winter – Point Cabrillo Lighthouse
Mendocino, CA
Photo: Katy Pye

But stormy days are followed by calm seas, sunshine, and now . . .

After rain photo by Katy Pye

After Rain
Point Cabrillo Lightstation Historic State Park
Photo: Katy Pye
All rights reserved

GREY WHALES!

Grey whale spouts-Katy Pye

Migrating Grey Whales
photo: Katy Pye
All rights reserved

The Greys make the world’s longest mammal migration – over 6,000 miles, Alaska to Baja, Mexico – where females give birth, nurse their young, and gather with males to breed. In early spring, they repeat the trip, babes in tow, moving slowly past us again.

Whales — one of my “winter’s here” wildlife markers.

Wildlife and Winter — Kids at Work and Wonder

Like whales here, when northern waters cool, immature sea turtles in the Atlantic migrate south, following food. Often these days, nature’s signal comes too late, or is too brief. The water turns cold too fast, leaving hundreds of sea turtles stunned on the surface. Their bodies, as if in a giant deep freeze, float almost lifeless, sometimes for months; if not rescued, these turtles will die of hunger, dehydration, or hyperthermia. Likely all three. Incoming tides and surges “strand” many, barely alive, on beaches along the coastline.

Godfrey-cold-stunned turtles

Cold-stunned sea turtles
photo: Matthew Godfrey-used with permission
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

Kids are helping save them. Nine year-old Skyler Lach is a four-year veteran sea turtle spotter. “Living on Earth,” (Public Radio International) aired a wonderful story about Skyler (you HAVE to see his picture with the turtles) and his dad, Michael, volunteers in the New England Aquarium and MA Audubon Society cold-stranding rescue program. The turtles spend a minimum of several months “thawing” and rehabing at the Aquarium, then are transported and released in warmer waters off Florida or Georgia. Listen to Skyler talk about his experience and more about the project. Know what a “wrackline” is? I didn’t.

No Sea Turtles to Find?

Take heart, there’s a lot you can do for wildlife in your neighborhood and backyard.

Check the web pages linked below for details. Here are the basics:

Hermit Thrush Photo: Katy Pye All rights reserved

Hermit Thrush
Photo: Katy Pye
All rights reserved

♥  Food — Leave dead flowers and plants in the garden as seed sources for birds. Keep bird feeders full. Make your own food sources.

Hummingbird gets food & water Photo: Katy Pye All rights reserved

Hummingbird at food & water
Photo: Katy Pye
All rights reserved

♥  Water — keep an unfrozen source around, even if all you have is an apartment patio.

♥  Shelter — Brush piles, stacked firewood, your discarded Christmas tree. Not just birds, but creatures like frogs, bugs, butterflies, and reptiles can use these piles for shelter and food, too.

Pacific Treefrog Photo: Katy Pye All rights reserved

Pacific Treefrog
Photo: Katy Pye
All rights reserved

Mule deer buck Photo: Katy Pye All rights reserved

Mule deer buck-not a rack for holiday lights
Photo: Katy Pye
All rights reserved

♥  Holiday safety — Know how your holiday decorations may affect wildlife in your area, especially if you live in a rural area.

Photo: Katy Pye All rights reserved

Beach litter
Photo: Katy Pye
All rights reserved

♥  Clean up — Litter that can injure wildlife, that’s anything they can get stuck in or they might eat, but shouldn’t.

♥  Write — a politician, supporting your favorite place or wildlife.

♥  Volunteer — at a wildlife organization or your local animal shelter. Dogs and cats need love, too!

♥  Donate — Every nickel makes a difference to your favorite cause. An amazing example of what one child, backed by energized, hard-working adults, can do, is Vivienne Harr and her “Make-a-Stand” campaign against child slavery. The point isn’t how much she made, but that she cared, had an idea, and said, “Let’s go!”

♥  Learn — Spend time outside. See if you can discover one new thing about the wildness in your backyard or neighborhood. Birds are everywhere. Which species do you see often? Audubon Society now has Christmas Bird Counts for Kids (CBC4Kids), thanks to Sonoma County, CA birders, Tom Rusert and Darren Peterie. Listen to a short interview on the recent “Bird Note” podcast. National Christmas bird counts begin mid December and end the 3rd week in January. Check your local Audubon Society to see if it sponsors CBC4Kids. If not, help start one!

All of Us Together

I love what Tom Rusert said about kids and parents birding together. What about kids who don’t live with their parents? Or parents unable or unwilling to share their kid’s interests? Author and environmentalist Rachael Carson addresses this beautifully.

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”  

It’s true for all aspects of life. While not every child will respond if we step up to give, no child can respond if we don’t. Nothing adds perspective to how we grownups see the world — on our brightest and darkest days — than a child’s wonder.

Help a child, find an adult, change a heartbeat.

Peace.

Thanks to the following organizations and sites for the tips and podcasts used here.

PRI; “Living on Earth” podcastThe Humane Society; The Bump: Preschooler; Sonoma Birding; Earthkids.com; Sonoma Birding; Bird Note

“Whatever special nests we make–leaves, moss or tents or piled stone–we all dwell in a house of one room.” John Muir

UPDATE: iMatter Kids Winning for the Atmosphere!

The iMatter kids lawsuits I wrote about in May are making headway. Where? In of all places, the historically conservative states of Texas and New Mexico.

CC dry streambed-Matt Rudge

photo: Matt Rudge – Creative Commons
from TckTckTck

Maybe this year’s hottest summer on record (3,282 heat records broken in June), ongoing drought and wildfires convinced Texas District Court Judge, Gisela Triana, to rule “the atmosphere and air must be protected for public use.”

A few days later, Judge Sarah Singleton of the New Mexico District Court, threw out her state attorneys’ request to shut down the iMatter Trust suit, which, likewise, sought to protect the atmosphere. The plaintiff who sued the state, 18 year-old, Akilah Sanders-Reed, was represented for free by lawyers with Wild Earth Guardians.

New Mexico flag CC

Judge Singleton’s ruling helps move the state to cut atmosphere-damaging emissions by developing “Climate Recovery Plans” similar to others in states and the nation that restore streams, native grasslands, and ocean fish populations.

Listen to Akilah talk about her decision to become the suit’s key actor (Progressive Radio Network July 31, 2012, beginning at 17:17 minutes into the show). Her reasoning goes beyond her state, to the importance of these individual lawsuits on the nation and the planet. Attorney, Tanya Sanerib, a legal counsel in the federal cases, joins her to explain the basics of the suit and the Public Trust and what’s at stake. I promise it’s not boring.

New Mexico Whitewater Baldy Night Fire 6/6/2012

New Mexico’s Whitewater Baldy Night Fire 6/6/2012
Photo: Kari Greer – Credit USFS Gila National Forest.

The iMatter kids have done their homework. Watch their video stories; new ones have been added since May. All are impressive. These passionate young people, from diverse backgrounds, know that fighting for everyone’s right to a livable planet won’t be easy. The lawsuits force judges to breathe their decisions into uncharted air. The Public Trust doctrine has been used successfully to support the environment, but it has never been tapped to protect the  atmosphere, thus full planet health. You can’t get more basic than that. Judges Triana and Singleton have bravely opened new legal territory, making it easier for other state and federal judges to act.

Visit and bookmark this page at Our Children’s Trust to read about and follow the state-by-state progress of the lawsuits.

*******

Now the weirdest story I’ve run across about adaptations to climate change.

http://old-photos.blogspot.com/2009_01_01_archive.html

Hoping for chocolate milk?

Farmers Feed Hungry Cattle Chocolate in Lieu of Corn

Opinions vary on why some cow farmers in the Midwest are resorting to feeding livestock chocolate, marshmallows, and gummy bears instead of corn. No science on the impact of turning cows into sweet junkies is offered. I wonder whether the state Ag Extension offices have weighed in. I may be a chocoholic, but I’m sticking to my California squeezed milk!

*************************************************************************

“The Atmosphere Belongs to Every Generation”  iMatter.org and Our Children’s Trust.org

Celebrate 10/15! California’s THUMBS UP to Pacific Leatherbacks!

WAY TO GO, CALIFORNIA!

Leatherbacks get better chance than the grizzly bear

September 26th, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation naming the critically endangered leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) the state’s marine reptile.

This Monday, October 15th is — and every October 15th to come:      

Pacific Leatherback Conservation Day!

Special thanks to Assembly member, Paul Fong, the Sea Turtle Restoration Project, Oceana, and the many organizations, individuals, and legislators who made this happen.

Leatherbacks are the “Texas*-sized” member of the sea turtle species. The largest, they lay the biggest eggs in the highest number of clutches, travel the greatest distances (and to more varied environments — tropical to subarctic), and dive the deepest (like, whale deep, up to 3,000+ ft/900+ m), looking for their favorite food, jellyfish.

Leatherback-Wallace Nichols

Leatherback swimming off Mozambique
photo: Wallace Nichols. Creative Commons

Imagine an animal as delicate and water-filled as a jelly, powering such a huge reptile around the world. The Pacific coast of California is one foraging habitat for leatherbacks, which can now find protection within a 16,000 square-mile “critical habitat zone” up and down the state.

Jellies
photo: Petr Kratochvil

This week’s THUMBS DOWN for HAWAII

The bad news for leatherback and loggerhead turtles hanging out around Hawaii is the National Marine Fisheries Service has relaxed regulations, supporting the island’s long-line industry by increasing the number of turtles that can be legally caught (even killed) as by-catch during swordfish fishing.

Longline & turtle drawing from Sustainable Sushi.com

Image from Sustainable Sushi.net
No artist credit given

In November the numbers for leatherbacks “go up to 26, more than a 60 percent increase, and the loggerhead catch to 34, about a 100 percent increase.” (Washington Post Oct 6, 2012). While these numbers seem small, both sea turtle species have suffered major population declines in the last few decades due to fishing, egg and turtle poaching, and ingesting plastics. Female leatherbacks reach breeding age when they are between 7 and 13 years-old. They may lay up to 10 clutches a year, they only nest every 2 to 7 years (2-4 is average). With all they face surviving to reach adulthood, then reproduce, cutting down threats, rather than raising limits on them, seems prudent.

As bad is the by-catch issue, escaped and discarded plastic is arguably the worst enemy of the ocean and its inhabitants. I taped this photo to my back door as a reminder to take cloth shopping bags with me and to watch for plastic-alternative packaging.

Leatherback hatchling hugs

Leatherback hatchlings
photo: Daphne Goldberg CC

Keep balloons on a tether and dispose of properly–this does NOT include releasing them into the sky*!

* Speaking of Texas and sky, watch for my next blog post, “UPDATE: Kids Winning for the Atmosphere,” coming soon.

Called Out By An “Old Lady” And a Turtle

Saturday, June 16th, is World Sea Turtle Day!

Zander Srodes-by Steven Rosenbaum

Zander Srodes-by Steven Rosenbaum
TEDxTeen 2011

Twenty-two year-old Zander Srodes didn’t earn a 2012 Youth Service America “25 Most Influential and Powerful Young People in the World” award because he invented a new computer system or became the youngest person to head the World Bank. Zander only saves sea turtles. With every ounce of his being. Every day. Watch his TEDxTeen video. It’s short and he’s so cool.

Imagine the scene: 2001. Night on a Florida beach. Eleven year-old “punk” kid, showing off to his buddies. Fireworks. Old lady yelling something crazy about turtles, too much light, wrong light. Who knows? Who cares? Punk shoots off mouth back at her. Curtain falls. 

Next morning: Curtain rises. Sleep-blurred kid staggers into the kitchen. Mom and  “old lady” seem to be plotting at the table over coffee. The twinkle, twinkle, boom, bang moments of the night before are about to turn into the “it” moment for the kid who doesn’t care.

Linda Soderquist, the local turtle expert in Zander’s kitchen, didn’t scold that morning, she shared — about sea turtles, swimming and impacting the oceans for tens of thousands of years. Zander felt the turtles grab his hand. They “wouldn’t let go.”

“What can I do?” he said.

What couldn’t he do? “Turtle Talks” to the kids at school spawned a free activity book (Linda illustrated). Today, more than 250,000 copies have been distributed in five languages over 20 countries. At 22, Zander travels the world, promoting conservation through conference talks and village chats and leading summer volunteer trips for college students in Costa Rica. He’s even an ESPN radio announcer Saturdays on Florida sports!

One of Zander’s mentors is Wallace “J” Nichols (see World Oceans Day post). “J” filmed this terrific story about 92 year-old, Pak Lahanie, the sole inhabitant and “caretaker” of Durai Island, a small sea turtle nesting ground near Indonesia. For 40 years, the five island owners paid him to harvest ALL the eggs the poor sea turtles dutifully dragged themselves out of the ocean to lay. Until “J” showed up. See what Pak does now to help the turtles he’s always loved.

For”J”, sea turtles are an indicator species for what oceanographer, Dr. Sylvia Earle, illustrates so elegantly in her TEDx Prize video on the health and purpose of the world’s oceans. Our planet’s present and future don’t divide the oceans from the rest of life on earth. The oceans ARE ALL LIFE ON EARTH. Thanks to Dr. Earle’s video, I finally, completely get it.

“No water, no life, no blue, no green.” Sylvia Earle.

Moon by Katy Pye

Us with “No Blue”
Photo: Katy Pye

As Zander says, every morning you get out of bed and choose to make a positive or negative difference. Eleven years ago, Linda handed him a different set of fireworks in the form of knowledge. He’s been lighting the world for everyone since.

Sylvia Earle’s mother, “the bird lady,” healed the neighborhood’s wounded birds and animals. At 81, after her first scuba dive, she scolded Sylvia for not making her do it sooner. 

As a kid, Jacques Cousteau influenced “J” Nichols’ decision to become a sea turtle biologist.

Some people seem to know their path right out of the egg. Most of us need mentors — whether we’re kids or adults — to find our “it” moments. They kick us away from the comfortable light of the campfire toward the dim glow at the edge of the path. Then hand us the torch.

Sea Turtle Wallpaper__yvt2-rs

“SEEN THE LIGHT?”
Photo: No attribution found

June 7, 2012:  On Being:  Interview with Oceanographer Sylvia Earle (mp3 online), or via  iTunes podcast.

Kids Fight for Atmosphere as a “Public Trust”

“THE STATE HAS A SOVEREIGN OBLIGATION OVER ALL EARTH AND AIR WITHIN ITS DOMAIN.”    U.S. Supreme Court 1907

Creative Commons photo Rachel CarsonIn 1962, when Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published, I was eleven, the same age as Jamie-Lynn Butler now. I was thirteen, like Glori Die Filippone, when Ms. Carson lost her fight with cancer. As a kid, the “environment” was school, summer camp, or my room. The only battle lines I drew were those separating my parents from me. It took more than a decade before I got that “the environment” wasn’t about my tiny world view. But recalling my youthful ignorance or feeling badly when I slack off recycling are empty gestures.

CC Scales_of_justice

Seventeen year-old iMatter Movement founder, Alec Loorz, and the other young people at the core of the Our Children’s Trust lawsuit against the federal government and 49 states, have taken charge and inspire awe. They’re not phrase-makers.

Trust litigant Nelson Kanuk watches winter come later every year, threatening his family’s subsistence-based life in Alaska. Twenty-three year-old Montana farmer, John Thiebes, risks his economic future, making his farm a climate-friendly guinea pig. “Climate change,” he says, “is the defining issue of my generation and the generations to follow.”

Alec created the iMatter Movement because he saw what we are doing to counteract climate change isn’t big enough or fast enough. What’s needed is a politically and legally solid engine to drive change. Through the “Trust” lawsuit these powerful young souls face a fight for the environment much bigger than the earlier ones of my generation. I’m ashamed, after such a good start in the 1970s with the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, and other regulations, we let so much progress on the side of the environment slide under the corporate and individual “can’t live without it” bus. As 65 year-old Huffington Post energy and climate policy contributor, William S. Becker, (“Children v. Dirty Business,”) put it:

I must admit some embarrassment that our children now feel obligated to face off against the giants of industry and government and all their lawyers. These kids are stepping in where their elders in Washington and the international community have feared to tread.

Global fossil carbon emissions 1800–2007

Global fossil carbon emissions 1800–2007

The aim of the lawsuit is simple — our federal and state governments have a mandated responsibility to protect the environment. The suit asks for a comprehensive plan to tackle climate change. Planning. We do it all the time. The atmosphere, the kids claim, like the water we drink and air we breathe, is a “public trust” that belongs to everyone. What a thought. 

What’s Next? Who’s Playing?

In March this year, under District Court approval, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM, “one of the largest fossil fuel lobbying groups in the country”) and five other industry groups joined federal lawyers, asking the kid’s case be thrown out. Most states are following that lead. NAM’s lawyers argue industry has a legal interest (translate, a right) to “freely emit CO2” and that limiting greenhouse gasses would “limit or eliminate their businesses.” May 11th, 2012 a judge will side one way or the other. The efforts of these brave young people will either suffocate in a Washington, D.C. courtroom or breathe the fresh air of hope. 

We can’t vote. We can’t afford lobbyists. We can only trust that our leaders will make good decisions on our behalf.  But when they make decisions like favoring oil company profits over our safety, then we need to hold them accountable. — Alec Loorz
CC troubled nature phase II

Troubled Nature, Phase II

Go here to watch five short and moving videos of the Trust kids mentioned in the article. Five more will be posted at that site, one a month.

And here to learn more about the movement, the lawsuit, donate, or sign a petition to the Obama administration.

Elizabeth, meet Winter.

On Earth Day, or any day, no story captures better the lows and highs of putting yourself out there to make a difference. Click the title below to read about Winter.

Winter Slade, 7-Year-Old, Raises Thousands For Wildlife Preservation After Being Told Her Idea Was ‘Stupid’

Newfoundland Pine Marten

Newfoundland Pine Marten-threatened…
photo: Earth Rangers and the Nature Conservancy of Canada

Way back in the early 1990s, my daughter Erin was a little older than Winter when she started a local chapter of “Kid’s for Saving Earth,” then sponsored by Target Stores. I remember how excited she was rounding up her friends for their first meeting. They wrote letters to President Clinton about saving elephants, learned about garbage during a  “dump” visit, and how to cook in a solar oven from an ex-Peace Corps friend of mine.

Luckily, no one called these kids stupid. Winter’s passion for the Pine Martens and what her mom, Michelle, did to turn hurt into action will stick with Winter longer than the ignorance of a few adults. This young girl is going places! The Pine Martens even sent her a thank you!

Kemp's ridley by Katy Pye 2010

Kemp’s ridley hatchling
Photo: Katy Pye 2010

This post is the official launch of the website and blog supporting my young adult novel, Elizabeth’s Landing. The main character Elizabeth, like Winter, finds a creature, the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, that snags her heart, big time. Also, like Winter, Elizabeth and her ideas to help save the turtles don’t always get the support she expects.

The site has lots of information (and links) about the Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, who they are, where they travel, what they struggle against, and the folks working to save them from extinction. Kids are revved up and involved in all sorts of ways. I’ll be posting their photos and stories. I’ll also post about kids making a difference in the lives of other critters, places, and people. If you come across a story that moved you to act, pass it along. If you’re a kid or young adult working for positive change in the world, drop a note in the comment box and tell us what you’re up to.

So, brava, Winter! Brava, and all the best, Michelle, in your fight with cancer. Thank you for caring and acting.

Peace.

Elizabeth’s Landing is on the Internet highway hunting up an agent. You’ll find more about the book on the Home page.

Thanks to my husband, Robert for telling me about Winter’s story on Earth Day.