Another conservation success: Bearded vulture returns to the Alps

May 31, 2014

Do conservation efforts pay off?  Yes, they do.

Film comes from the European-based Vulture Conservation Foundation.

Since the film, more of these majestic animals have been released.  Here are photos from the release on Friday, May 30:

Workers and volunteers from the Vulture Conservation Foundation, climbing the Alps to release to the wild another captive-raised bearded vulture.

Workers and volunteers from the Vulture Conservation Foundation, climbing the Alps to release to the wild another captive-raised bearded vulture. (We might assume the vulture is in the box.)

One must respect these volunteers, climbing such tors simply to watch a bird fly away.

The line of hiking Vulture Conservation Foundation volunteers stretched across an alpine mountain for a release on May 30, 2014.

The line of hiking Vulture Conservation Foundation volunteers stretched across an alpine mountain for a release on May 30, 2014.

You can tell

Not ready for his (her?) close up, this bearded vulture may be wildly happy, or sad to leave those who raised it.  Vultures, it may be said, are often inscrutable.  Vulture Conservation Foundation photos.

Not ready for his (her?) close up, this bearded vulture may be wildly happy, or sad to leave those who raised it. Vultures, it may be said, are often inscrutable. Vulture Conservation Foundation photos.

Tip of the old scrub brush to bird conservationist Amanda Holland.


Yes, malaria is still a plague; it’s not Rachel Carson’s fault, and your saying so probably kills kids

May 30, 2014

May 27’s Google Doodle honoring Rachel Carson brought out a lot of those people who have been duped by the anti-Rachel Carson hoaxers, people who are just sure their own biased views of science and the politics of medical care in the third world are right, and Carson, and the people who study those issues, are not.

So comes “The Federalist,” what appears to me to be a reactionary site, which yesterday got great readership for a story from Bethany Mandel.  Mandel tells a story of a child in Cambodia suffering from malaria.  The suffering is horrible and the child most likely died.  It’s a tragic story of poverty and lack of medical care in the third world.

Erroneously, Mandel up front blames the suffering all on Rachel Carson, in a carp about the Google Doodle.

Here was my quick response between bouts in the dentist’s chair yesterday [links added here]:

[Bethany Mandel wrote:] Using faulty science, Carson’s book argued that DDT could be deadly for birds and, thus, should be banned. Incredibly and tragically, her recommendations were taken at face value and soon the cheap and effective chemical was discontinued, not only in the United States but also abroad. Environmentalists were able to pressure USAID, foreign governments, and companies into using less effective means for their anti-malaria efforts. And so the world saw a rise in malaria deaths.

Don’t be evil?

Start by not telling false tales.

1.  Carson presented a plethora of evidence that DDT kills birds.  This science was solid, and still is.

2.  Carson did not argue DDT should be banned.  She said it was necessary to fight disease, and consequently uses in the wild, requiring broadcast spraying, should be halted immediately.

3.  Scientific evidence against DDT mounted up quickly; under US law, two federal courts determined DDT was illegal under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act; they stayed orders to ban the chemical pending hearings under a new procedure at the new Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA held hearings, adversary proceedings, for nine months. More than 30 DDT manufacturers were party to the hearings, presenting evidence totaling nearly 10,000 pages.  EPA’s administrative law judge ruled that, though DDT was deadly to insects, arachnids, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, the labeled uses proposed in a new label (substituted at the last moment) were legal under FIFRA — indoor use only, and only where public health was concerned.  This labeling would allow DDT to remain on sale, over the counter, with few penalties for anyone who did not follow the label.  EPA took the label requirements, and issued them as a regulation, which would prevent sales for any off-label uses.  Understanding that this would be a severe blow to U.S. DDT makers, EPA ordered U.S. manufacture could continue, for the export markets — fighting mosquitoes and malaria being the largest export use.

This ruling was appealed to federal courts twice; in both cases the courts ruled EPA had ample scientific evidence for its rule.  Under U.S. law, federal agencies may not set rules without supporting evidence.

4.  DDT was banned ONLY for agriculture use in the U.S.  It was banned in a few European nations.  [Addition, December 30, 2014: In fact, the U.S. action against DDT by EPA specifically called for DDT use in any fight against a vector borne disease, like malaria.]

5.  DDT has never been banned in Africa or Asia.

6.  USAID’s policy encouraged other nations to use U.S.-made DDT, consistent with federal policy to allow manufacture for export, for the benefit of U.S. business.

7.  U.S. exports flooded markets with DDT, generally decreasing the price.

Fred Soper, super malaria fighter, whose ambitious campaign to erase malaria from the Earth had to be halted in 1965, before completion, when DDT abuse bred mosquitoes resistant and immune to DDT.

Fred Soper, super malaria fighter, whose ambitious campaign to erase malaria from the Earth had to be halted in 1965, before completion, when DDT abuse bred mosquitoes resistant and immune to DDT.

8.  Although WHO had been forced to end its malaria eradication operation in 1965, because DDT abuse had bred mosquitoes resistant to and immune to DDT, and though national and international campaigns against malaria largely languished without adequate government funding, malaria incidence and malaria deaths declined.  Especially after 1972, malaria continued a year-over-year decline with few exceptions.

Note that the WHO campaign ended in 1965 (officially abandoned by WHO officials in 1969), years before the U.S. ban on DDT.

Every statement about DDT in that paragraph of [Mandel’s] article, is wrong.

Most important, to the purpose of this essay, malaria did not increase.  Malaria infections decreased, and malaria deaths decreased.

I’m sure there are other parts of the story that are not false in every particular.  But this article tries to make a case against science, against environmental care — and the premise of the case is exactly wrong.  A good conclusion is unlikely to follow.

Mandel was hammered by the full force of the anti-Rachel Carson hoaxers.  I wonder how many children will die because people thought, “Hey, all we have to do is kill Rachel Carson to fix malaria,” and so went off searching for a gun and a bullet?

You are not among them, are you?

Update: This guy, a worshipper of the Breitbart, seems to be among those who’d rather rail against a good scientist than lift a finger to save a kid from malaria. If you go there, Dear Reader, be alert that he uses the Joe Stalin method of comment moderation:  Whatever you say, he won’t allow it to be posted.  Feel free to leave comments here, where we practice First Amendment-style ethics on discussion.


Milky Way over Arches N.P.

May 30, 2014

From the Department of Interior's Twitter feed:  Looking for a wow photo? This picture of the Milky Way over Natural Bridges Natl Monument should do the trick. pic.twitter.com/RfuDj7KXSA

From the Department of Interior’s Twitter feed: Looking for a wow photo? This picture of the Milky Way over Natural Bridges Natl Monument should do the trick. pic.twitter.com/RfuDj7KXSA

Owachomo Bridge?  Photographer?  I wish Interior would put in all the details with their photos.


Rachel Carson, star of Google Doodle on her 107th birthday

May 27, 2014

Have you been to Google today for a general search?  Did you catch the Doodle?

Google Doodle for May 27, 2014, honors scientist and writer Rachel Carson on what would have been her 107th birthday.

Google Doodle for May 27, 2014, honors scientist and writer Rachel Carson on what would have been her 107th birthday.

Perhaps even more remarkable, if you click the Doodle (any Doodle) it takes you to a Google search on that subject.  The search you get today is all positive about Carson.  Considering the money being spent to soil her reputation, 50 years after her death, one might wonder if Google adjusted the search or the algorithm for the results to do that.

If they monkeyed with it, give them bonus points for accuracy and thoroughness.

If they didn’t monkey with it, take great hope that Ben Franklin was right, and truth does indeed win in a fair fight.

Here’s page 1 of the search result I got (not an image, so the links stay hot for you):

Rachel Carson – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Carson

Wikipedia

Rachel Louise Carson (May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964) was an American marine biologist and conservationist whose book Silent Spring and other writings are …


    1. The Independent ‎- by Linda Sharkey ‎- 3 hours ago
      Tomorrow marks the 107th anniversary of the birth of Rachel Louise Carson, the environmentalist whose research led to the banning of harmful …

    More news for Rachel Louise Carson


Rachel Carson left a great and powerful legacy.  52 years after the publication of her most important, most read, and most criticized book, not a single piece of science she cited has been disproven by subsequent research.  Discover Magazine did a literature search some years ago and found more than 1,000  research projects had been done on DDT’s harm to birds, and every one that was published came back to support the claims Carson had made.

Apart from her extreme care for the science and great accuracy, Carson’s words today can still inspire.  She was a helluva writer.  Carson made clear that biological research in the wild is really ecology.  Today more than ever before range botanists and zoologists, to take one example, work closely with each other, and with geneticists, molecular biologists, entomologists, chemists, physicists, climatologists, geologists and geographers, and anyone else who wants to chime in, to present clear understandings the ripple effects damage or benefit to one species may have on many others.

Before Rachel Carson, any graduate study programs in ecology were few and far between, often not even called ecology.

Those methods help to save birds, and also every other form of life on the planet.

Blinded, angry and malicious opposition to the facts Carson laid out, and later scientists still lay out, remains the bigger problem.

Chemical manufacturers spent more than $500,000 in 1962 to smear Carson and her work.  The smears largely did not work, instead forcing scientists to look at her work (which they found solid in science).  But since then, tobacco companies with the Tobacco Institute, perfected the techniques of raising doubts about good science among policymakers and the public.  Today companies spend billions to impugn scientific works in climate change, air and water pollution, and health care.  They are joined by an unpaid mob of internet-savvy malcontents to impugn the integrity of the U.S. space program, vaccinations, and even meteorologists who note that airplane exhaust creates condensation trails at high altitudes. (Yes, it’s water vapor.)

This blog’s seeming obsession with Carson was prompted by such an exquisite act of denialism in Congress, seven years ago, when I learned that Utah Congressman Rob Bishop was bragging about blocking the naming of a post office for Carson, based on false claims that Carson had written false or faulty science, that the U.S. ban on DDT use on crops had extended far outside the jurisdiction of the U.S., and that a shortage of DDT meant malaria had come roaring back from near extinction to unnecessarily kill millions. (The post office was eventually named for Carson, but Bishop and other deluded critics have never repented nor apologized.)

(The facts:  Malaria deaths and infection rates both continued to drop, worldwide, after the U.S. stopped spraying DDT on cotton. Many tens of millions fewer people died of malaria after the U.S. banned it.  The U.S. ban covered only the U.S., but let DDT makers keep cranking the stuff out for export, multiplying the amount of DDT available to fight malaria.  Unfortunately, as Carson feared, abuse of DDT in the third world quickly created DDT-resistant and immune mosquitoes; in 1965, the World Health Organization abandoned its malaria eradication campaign because of DDT’s declining effectiveness, a full seven years before the U.S. banned DDT.)

Truth wins in a fair fight, Ben; but as in colonial America, it is necessary for brave citizens to work hard to keep the fight fair.

Because of Rachel Carson, the bald eagle is off the endangered species list, and proliferating in the lower 48 states of the U.S. — as indeed are the peregrine falcon, osprey, and brown pelicans.  DDT continues to hammer many creatures in the wild, however, including the still-endangered  California condor.  Our national policies now require, by law, that significant federal projects consider the environmental effects of those actions, and mitigate the more severe effects or not proceed.  The U.S. now has an agency whose sole job is to consider the safety of chemicals and substances we use in the wild, with power to regulate air and water cleanups — and to clean up more than 400 DDT-contaminated sites on the EPA Priority List, or Superfund.  Among the great successes of this agency was the elimination of lead from gasoline in the U.S., reducing chronic lead poisoning in tens of millions of Americans, and literally raising the national average IQ with elimination of the brain-killing effects of lead.  Lake Erie is cleaner.  The Potomac River, though with its problems, is once again clean enough for humans to swim and boat, as are a hundred other waterways in America, from the Raritan River in New Jersey to the Willamette in Oregon.

Very powerful legacy indeed.

Happy birthday, Rachel Carson; Earth is lucky to have had you, even for such a brief period.

More: 


Eye to eye with a black vulture

May 26, 2014

Great photo out of a group at the University of George studying carrion-eating birds.  They capture vultures — black vultures are a current project.

Close up of an eye of a black vulture.  Photo by Megan Winzeler, at a University of Georgia research project.

Close up of an eye of a black vulture. Photo by Megan Winzeler, at a University of Georgia research project. Note the photographer, reflected in the bird’s eye.

This bird has the unromantic name of BLVU202.

“The last thing the old prospector would see . . .”


Memorial Day 2014: Fly your flag, with proper etiquette

May 26, 2014

Caption from Wikipedia:  Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (May 31, 2004) - Sailors assigned to ships based at Pearl Harbor bring the flag to half-mast over the USS Utah Memorial on Ford Island in honor of Memorial Day May 31, 2004. U.S. Navy photo

Caption from Wikipedia: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (May 31, 2004) – Sailors assigned to ships based at Pearl Harbor bring the flag to half-mast over the USS Utah Memorial on Ford Island in honor of Memorial Day May 31, 2004. U.S. Navy photo

Monday, May 26, 2014, is Memorial Day in the U.S.  It’s the day we honor soldiers who died, either fighting to defend the nation, or after.

Because it honors the dead, the flag-flying rules differ slightly.

If you’re flying your flag from a staff that allows raising and lowering, the flag should be posted at half-staff in the morning at sunrise.  At noon, the flag goes to full-staff position.

Usual flag-raising rules apply: Going up the staff, the flag rises briskly.  Coming down, it sinks slowly.

Before going to the half-staff position to honor the dead, the flag should be raised briskly to the top of the pole, and then brought down slowly to half-staff. At noon, again, the flag rises briskly.  And at retreat, at sundown, the flag comes down slowly.

Most Americans have a flag that attaches to the wall of a residence, or in other ways is not capable of raising and lowering.  In that case, simply post the the flag.

More: 


Insta-Millard: Golden Gate Bridge 50th anniversary, May 24, 1987

May 23, 2014

Happy anniversary, Golden Gate Bridge — opened 77 years ago.

My father was there. In 1937, I mean, not 1987.

Got a link to your favorite picture of the Golden Gate Bridge?

More: 

Golden Gate Bridge from the Pacific side, from Lands End, looking into San Francisco Bay. Wikipedia image.

Golden Gate Bridge from the Pacific side, from Lands End, looking into San Francisco Bay. Wikipedia image.


%d bloggers like this: