Sierra Daily: October 2013

« September 2013 | Main | November 2013 »

3 posts from October 2013

Oct 15, 2013

Indoor Cats vs. Outdoor Cats

Clipboard01Ruthless killing machines, but oh so cute! Sierra's contributing writer Dashka Slater bravely ventures into the fraught subject of the environmental effects of cats (and dogs!) in the current issue of the magazine, below. For another charming take on the same subject, see the short video by Caroline Paul and Wendy MacNaughton at bottom (with thanks to @brainpicker).

ON THE ONE HAND. . . Soft, whiskered, and purring, your cat may not look like a ruthless killing machine. But a study from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute indicates that more birds and small mammals die via Fluffy's claws than via cars, pesticides, poisons, colliding with windows, or any other human cause. The study found that cats kill between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds each year, along with 6.9 to 20.7 billion mammals. While feral cats are responsible for the vast majority of the carnage, even well-fed house cats kill an average of 2.1 animals every week they are outside. Worst of all, cats seem to prefer killing native species over icky invaders like the Norway rat.

ON THE OTHER . . . Dogs are worse. Catering to a medium-size dog's carnivorous instincts requires an ecological pawprint twice as large as it takes to build and fuel a large SUV. Worse, once Fido is sated, he has plenty of energy to chase birds, disrupt their nesting sites, exhaust them during migration stops, or kill them outright. A single dog killed more than half of the members of a New Zealand kiwi colony over the course of a few weeks, while five dogs destroyed Italy's largest flamingo colony in one day. And forget those long walks in the woods: A 2007 Australian study found that walking even leashed dogs in a park led to a 35 percent reduction in the number of bird species found there.

 —Dashka Slater


Oct 10, 2013

Point of No Return

Rush hour in JakartaMark your calendars. A new study published in the journal Nature maps out “climate departure,” the year when the average temperature of the coolest year will be warmer than the average historic temperature of the hottest year for several hundred locations around the world. For New York and Washington, D.C., it’s 2047: In about 35 years, even the coldest monthly temperatures on the east coast of the U.S. will be warmer than any time in the past 150 years. The tropics, on average, will get there 15 years earlier – Jakarta, Indonesia and Lagos, Nigeria in 2029, for example. “By 2050, 5 billion people may face extreme climates, and migration and heightened competition for natural resources may trigger violence and instability,” reports Bloomberg News. 

The study assumes we’ll be reckless-as-usual. If the world stabilizes greenhouse-gas emissions, climate departure could be delayed by more than two decades. “Conservation practitioners take heed: the climate-change race is not only on, it is fixed, with the extinction finish line looming closest for the tropics,” writes Eric Post, a professor of biology at Pennsylvania State University, in an article accompanying the study.

The Indonesian city of Manokwari is expected to get to the unfortunate finish line first, in 2020 -- the same year that a binding treaty to combat climate change would take effect, if U.N. envoys can complete negotiations by 2015.

Image of rush-hour traffic in Jakarta, Indonesia by iStock/Herianus.

HS_ReedMcManusReed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”

Oct 04, 2013

How the Stalled Government Hurts Our Environment

The United States Capitol Building where the decision to shutdown was madeThe government shutdown has forced the closure of the national parks, threatening tourism-based local economies and blocking our ability to marvel at the beauty of nature. But what does the shutdown mean for the agencies that work to expand our knowledge of the environment and protect us from pollution? Here's a rundown of how the nation's regulatory, research, and safety programs are faring. 

The Environmental Protection Agency
With only a fraction of its staff, the EPA is a shadow of its formal self. Regulatory bodies focusing on air, water, and soil will be crippled, and pending legal actions are put on hold. Plans to drastically increase regulations for coal- and gas-fired power plants and efforts to increase renewable fuel volume standards are also stalled. 

The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board
This board is charged with overseeing and identifying the causes of chemical hazards and spills. During the shutdown, it has only three active employees -- one of whom is an IT specialist. We hope there aren't any dangerous spills in the coming days.

Continue reading "How the Stalled Government Hurts Our Environment" »

User comments or postings reflect the opinions of the responsible contributor only, and do not reflect the viewpoint of the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club does not endorse or guarantee the accuracy of any posting. The Sierra Club accepts no obligation to review every posting, but reserves the right (but not the obligation) to delete postings that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate.

Up to Top

Sierra Club® and "Explore, enjoy and protect the planet"® are registered trademarks of the Sierra Club. © 2009 Sierra Club.
The Sierra Club Seal is a registered copyright, service mark, and trademark of the Sierra Club.