Spring began a good month early in Kansas City. Crocuses were blooming by mid-February; daffodils were up before the end of the month.


By now, magnolias, forsythias,  and crabapples, are done. Redbuds and azaleas are on their way out . . .

. . . but wild violets and lilacs are at their peak.

And, of course, their are plenty of dandelions.


Clearly, we’re not lacking for blossoms. But something is missing? What is it? Bees.

Almost every afternoon, I walk for an hour or so, and during flower season, I listen for buzzing and look for bees hovering around blooms.  Although a variety of plants have been blossoming for a couple of months now, I’ve yet to see a single bee.

But guess what. I’m happy to report a bit of good news (for a change). Garden-care giant Ortho announced today (April 12, 2016) that by 2021 it will discontinue the production of pesticides containing neonicotinoids, a class of chemicals that are particularly harmful to bees.

You can read all about it here:




No, it’s a weathered, shredded plastic grocery bag.


Inevitably, when I’m out for a walk, I see plastic bags blowing in the wind or snagged by a branch and flapping in the air. Often, I pick the bags up and carry them with me till I get to a store with a recycling barrel. Plastic bags weigh next to nothing., so carrying them for a little while isn’t a big deal.

I realize, of course, that picking up and recycling a bag or two makes approximately zero difference in the grand scheme of things. At the same time, I’m pretty certain that an individual turtle or sea bird or some other marine creature will be spared harm because I took a second to pick up a plastic bag.

What’s happening in the world’s oceans is appalling. If you haven’t read this before, you might think that I’m making it up, but, in fact, there are continent-sized patches of floating garbage in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans.* And most of that garbage is plastic. Consequently, more than half of the Earth’s sea turtles and almost all of its sea birds have ingested plastic.

So if you’re out for a walk and you see a plastic bag blowing by, you can prevent it from landing in a creek or a storm drain and being carried by the current to a river and then to the ocean and then to the stomach of a century-old tortoise by picking the bag up and recycling it. If recycling is too inconvenient, throwing the bag away in a trash can will at least keep it from ending up in the stomach of some marine creature.

http://education.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/great-pacific-garbage-patch/   http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/03/100302-new-ocean-trash-garbage-patch/   http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/04/140404-garbage-patch-indian-ocean-debris-malaysian-plane/

If your nerves can stand it, check out one or both of the stories linked below.

By 2050, Our Oceans Will Hold More Plastic Than Fish


By 2050, There Will Be More Plastic Than Fish in the World’s Oceans, Study Says

Climate Change Isn’t the Only BF Environmental D


Today, I’d like to pass along a couple of links to stories having to do with species extinctions. The first is a link to a segment on the PBS NewsHour about poaching in Africa’s wildlife preserves, entitled: “Why Wildlife Preserves in Kenya Resemble War Zones.”


The second is a link to a list of some of the species that are endangered. Click on the animal’s name for pictures and more information.


Photo source: Seven Natural Wonders


On species extinctions


Do you ever assume that other people know a fair amount about a subject that you know quite a bit about? I ask because a friend told me today that she’d read an interview with Leonardo di Caprio, and he said a mass extinction is occurring on Earth, and most people don’t know it.

I was surprised. Until a few hours ago, I assumed that the current wave of extinctions was common knowledge. Well, that was silly. If I hadn’t specialized in environmental policy, I probably wouldn’t have known about the extinctions, so why did I assume that people in other fields would know?

Who knows? In any case, below you’ll find a few lines from some recent articles about extinctions, along with links to those articles. I hope you’ll take a look.




From Antarctica to Africa, Penguins Are Facing Extinction

By Ben Adkison, for CNN

January 20, 2016

January 20 is Penguin Awareness Day.

As with most polar species, penguins are feeling the effects of climate change. Ice melt is changing their breeding grounds and overfishing and ocean acidification is affecting their food sources of fish, squid and krill.”



A Wild Liberty

By Grant A. Mincy, for The Ecologist

January 18, 2016

Of all the complex, wicked problems addressed by the current environmental movement, perhaps the most urgent is the rarely discussed mass extinction. We are currently experiencing Earth’s sixth great mass extinction crisis – on par with the rate that ended the reign of the dinosaurs….



The Sixth Mass Extinction on Earth Has Officially Begun and Could Threaten Humanity’s Existence, Scientists Warn (and This Time We’re to Blame)

By Mark Prigg, for The Daily Mail

June 19, 201

Species are disappearing about 100 times faster than normal rate.

Experts warn it could take Earth millions of years to recover.

They say humanity would likely disappear early on in the process.

Previous extinctions caused by natural disasters, but this is man-made.

And such a catastrophic loss of animal species presents a real threat to human existence, the experts warn, as crucial ecosystem ‘services’ such as crop pollination by insects and water purification in wetlands is also put at risk.



What’s Causing Deadly Outbreaks of Fungal Diseases in World’s Wildlife?

By Elizabeth Kolbert, for e360

January 18, 2016

Why are we seeing a growing number of fungal diseases of wildlife? Experts offer two possible explanations, both of which may be valid.

The first is the increase in global trade and global travel…. As the sheer volume of global trade and global travel rises, so, too, do the number of opportunities for pathogens of all sorts to disperse. Because fungi don’t need a host to survive, they may be particularly well-suited to intercontinental travel. And when a pathogen is let loose in a new place, the results can be spectacularly deadly.

[There’s] another possible answer to the question “why now.” Fungal diseases tend to be opportunistic…. Climate change, habitat loss, heavy metal pollution, competition from invasives — these are just a few of the forces that may be lowering animals’ resistance.

“I think it’s very likely that habitat in general is degraded, and so you have greater problems with disease,” [said] Tim James, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. “Everything is more stressed.”



Whales Are Full of Toxic Chemicals

By Sarah Zielinski, for Science News

January 19, 2016

European whales and dolphins may be at risk of extinction from the effects of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, a team of researchers recently reported in Scientific Reports. Concentrations of PCBs in killer whales and bottlenose and striped dolphins, they found, were high enough to cause health damage.

Persistent organic pollutants are not even the only problem when it comes to toxic chemicals. Mercury — from anthropogenic sources such as power generation — also works its way into whales and dolphins. Tests of whale meat for sale online in Japan last year revealed mercury levels as high as 47.5 times what is considered safe for human consumption.