Monday, January 31, 2011

Dumping trash in the ocean...sometimes a good thing?

By trash, I don't mean your old fast food. I'm talking about artificial reefs. This concept was brought about the discovery of vast ecosystems created by sunk ships over the centuries. Cities and organizations are now creating these ecosystems from scratch by purposefully sinking large structures made of environmentally friendly materials.

But why bother? Well, for a few different reasons. First of all, these structures promote ecological growth. The sites attract coral, fish, sea anemones, and many other marine creatures who find food and shelter here in a vast ocean.

Photograph by David Doubilet of National Geographic.

But these sites aren't just attracting fish. Divers are also plunging headfirst to get a look at these beautiful sceneries, creating tourism in otherwise drab places.

Those who have passed on have also been partaking in artificial reefs. Instead of a traditional burial, people are opting to have their ashes intermixed with eco-friendly cement and memorialized at the bottom of the sea. Since 1998, Eternal Reefs has been helping the departed leave an oceanic legacy for their families, friends, and descendants to visit for 500 years or more.

However, some biologists fear that these reefs are detracting fish from natural reefs. Since people know quite specifically where artificial reefs are or will be located, there's a huge possibility that fishermen could further destroy dwindling populations of highly desirable fish.

But for now, both authentic and artificial reefs continue to thrive throughout our underwater world.

Did you know that Los Angeles is no longer the dirtiest city in the United States? In fact, they're doing some innovative things with their garbage as well.

Monday, January 17, 2011

How to calculate your ecological footprint.

It's easy! Let do it for you. It's a neat little quiz where you actually have your own little avatar wandering around the environment in which it takes for you to personally live the way you do. It's eye-opening seeing different things drop on the map around you that are all necessary for your current lifestyle.

Image courtesy of

I just took the quiz myself and unfortunately it would take 3.5 earths for everyone on the planet to live as I do. Not exactly the greatest results, but I'm doing my best to reduce, reuse, and recycle! Can you do better?

Don't buy your friends: rescue them!

Happy belated New Year! My apologies for my absence lately. Between the last couple months of holidays, finals, and work in general, it's been hectic trying to balance everything. Which brings me to my next topic. About a month ago I took on another endeavor: volunteering at my local animal shelter.

What you see when you first walk into the shelter I volunteer at.

I've also been paying more attention to rescue groups through Facebook such as and Pinups For Pitbulls. Because of my incessant link posting, a few friends of mine had a small debate regarding the right to purchase pets from breeders and pet stores rather than adopting from shelters or rescue groups. While that is obviously a person's right to do what they will with their own money, I personally feel that it is not only better to adopt but absolutely necessary to adopt.

Since I've been volunteering, I have seen many dogs and cats who have been sitting in kennels for 4, 6, 8 months or more, and while the shelter and its volunteers do so much to ensure that all of these wonderful animals are well loved and cared for, it angers me to think that there are those out there who have no qualms about funding breeders and puppy mills. People try to justify not getting a pet from a shelter because they think the animals there are sick, abused, or unwanted for "a reason." These are myths for most of these animals and those that are sick or have been abused receive socialization and veterinary care every day. Additionally, a lot of shelters (like the one I volunteer for) wont even adopt out sick animals until they are healthy again.

This topic was rekindled in my mind a couple weeks ago when I drove by a stray German Shepherd with a dead feral cat in its mouth. I called animal control hoping that after the dog's temperament was evaluated he would find a good home. It's highly unlikely though, given his situation. Why is it unlikely? Well, the Humane Society speaks on pet overpopulation, stating that six to eight million cats and dogs are brought to U.S. shelters every year. An average of four million potential pets are put to sleep in that same year. This amongst many other reasons which I will address below is why I feel adopting is necessary.

Why are puppy mills bad?

Puppy mill. Photo provided by the Animal Humane Society. If you have the stomach for it, feel free to Google image search "puppy mill" for a better idea of how they are. This image is "NC-17" enough for me.

Puppy mills are commercial businesses for the purpose of breeding dogs. They continually keep their dogs pregnant to get as many litters out of them as possible until they become infertile or die. These dogs live in disturbingly poor conditions with limited veterinary care, companionship, and space. The reason these mills continue to operate successfully is due to the sale of puppies online and in pet stores by unaware and uninformed customers. Despite every effort made by animal rights groups to stop puppy mills, they continue to remain legal in much of the United States due to loopholes.

Why are breeders bad?

First of all let me clarify that not all breeders are "bad breeders." The problem is that without seeing the conditions in which dogs are bred, it's hard to know who the good ones vs. the bad ones are. A lot of breeders, for example, are no better than puppy mills--just on a smaller scale. Also, a lot of breeders sell online and are willing to tell you exactly what you want to hear rather than the whole truth of the matter. How will you know the difference?

The main concern with breeders as a whole, including the "good ones," is that they are continuing to add to the population of domestic animals. People are attracted by the idea of breeders because they have a false sense of hope about the outcome of pure breeds or dogs simply raised in "ideal" conditions (not always the case). Unfortunately a lot of buyers regret their purchase, attempt to return their pet to no avail, and end up surrendering their pet to animal shelters.

The ASPCA itself is not against breeding dogs by any means, however they do have a Criteria for Responsible Breeding Checklist which they feel should give you an idea of what to look for when you do choose to purchase an animal from a breeder. Please do your research on breeders through the Better Business Bureau, the ASPCA, your local Animal Control facility to ensure that the breeder you are purchasing from doesn't have any complaints or abuse cases against them. Sometimes you'll even find this information online from people who have publicized their complaints on unethical and abusive breeders.

So where should I get my new companion?

Animal shelters or rescue groups, of course! Shelters provide a lot of services to you and your future pets including spaying and neutering, veterinary assistance, counseling, and significantly lower costs. Shelters also ensure that dogs are tested for temperament before being released to the public for adoption. That means that you are likely to find a dog who gets along with other dogs and children. Counselors will meet with you to assess your needs prior to adoption, and provide you with the time to get to know your future friend.

But if you really feel uncomfortable with adopting or you have your heart set on having a pure breed, please remember to do your research. If you do come across unethical treatment of animals, try to do your part to report it as well to your local Animal Control facility. It's one thing to buy your friends, but it's a whole 'nother to rescue them!

Jupiter (left--may he rest in peace) was found homeless by a couple who couldn't keep him so my mom and I loved him for many years (and still do)! We adopted Phoebe (right) from a shelter and she is now living happily ever after in Northern California with my mom, brother, and sister-in-law.