Baby Turtle Poops Plastic

sea turtle John White

I travel a lot, and I’m almost always in a hurry when doing so. Sometimes I forget my water bottle or coffee mug. I never bring a plate or a fork. But guess what? One-time-use plastics are to the rescue, and they are so convenient. And they’re everywhere. In fact, they’re practically pushed on me. But that’s not really a great thing. It actually sucks.  If I don’t catch clerks or wait-staff in time, I will have a whole dump’s worth of plastic bags, straws, and plastic lids in my hands or on my lap. I’m definitely not the worse offender, but I can do better. Our wildlife, our health, and our children’s’ prosperity are being compromised for our conveniences. Many of us feel like we are in too much of a hurry to worry about plastics and their hard-core impacts. We often feel like we’re too busy trying to pay the rent/mortgage, car payment, credit cards, and student loans to reflect on the impacts of our lifestyles. We most often don’t feel like we have time to maintain (remembering to bring and wash) reusable cups/forks/knives/straws, or to carry cloth bags with us, or to remember to ask for “no straws, please.” But we do. Look at what we are doing to wildlife. That’s not who we want to be. Right?! We have time. We can do better. We must. Shout out to you compassionate folks who are miles ahead of me on your reusables usage. You rock! And shout out to the innovators and law makers and voters who find low-impact options for us, or encourage us to find options for ourselves. Shout out to you very busy hustling folks that still have time to be compassionate. Shout out to you folks who vote with your dollar by purchasing the most environmentally friendly options. You inspire. Keep it up.

The photo of the adult loggerhead turtle (above) was taken by John White.

Check out this video of a baby turtle that was rescued after pooping plastic.

Eight Tips to Make a Fishing Line Cleanup Event Successful.

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Hey, Im Griff. This is the accompanying blog to the the Griff’s Wild Tips video, titled Save Wildlife, Pick up Fishing Line. In each episode of Griff’s Wild Tips, I will show you something that you can do to help wildlife and their habitats (aka homes). In this episode, I explain the dangers posed to wildlife by littered fishing line and show you what you can do about it. It’s simple. Whenever you see discarded fishing line pick it up, cut it up, and pack it out. But one person cannot do it all alone, that’s why I encourage you to organize a fishing line cleanup event. It could be a with your family, a group of friends, or you could go big and organize a volunteer event and invite people from your community.

Several years ago, my California Conservation Corps (CCC) crew and I found a western grebe entangled in fishing line on the shore of Lake Mendocino. The line had already dug deeply into the bird’s flesh and caused life-threatening damage. We had to help it. The closest wildlife rehabilitation center was almost two-hours drive away, so we called a few local vets until we found one who would take it. Since then, I take CCC members to the same spot where we found the bird and we pick up discarded fishing line.

In this Griff’s Wild Tips episode, I’m going give you some 8 pointers to help you successfully implement a fishing line cleanup effort with a small group of friends, or a large group of volunteers.

Remember that if you organize any cleanup event, try to make it fun as possible. The more fun, the more likely that people will return to do it again. There are a lot of ways to make a fishing line cleanup fun. Before, after, or during the cleanup you can take a swim break, dance break, or fishing break. You can use your iNaturalist ap to document what organisms you discover in the area. You can have a rock skipping contest. You can play a game of ninja pose, or you can even teach everyone how to do the nature-celebrating BioBlitz Dance!

Just get out there and do it! Discarded fishing line kills and we need to pick it up! And the more we pick up, the less suffering wildlife will have to endure. Here’s some other things you should consider while conducting a fishing line cleanup event with a group of people.

  1. First off have a safety meeting. Below are some safety considerations and links to more information. Keep in mind that each site and group will have its own safety challenges, considerations, and strategies.
  • Identify anyone who cannot swim and assign them to a territory not directly near deep water.
  • Take ten minutes or so to teach the reach, wade, throw, row method of saving a drowning victim.
  • Remind folks to wear leather gloves due to rusty hooks. Recommend that they also have an updated tetanus shot before participating.
  • Bring at least one throw rope and demonstrate its proper use.

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  • Make sure everyone practices the buddy system and stays in their team’s designated territory.
  • Identify the nearest hospital to the group. And take note of whether or not you have reception in the case that you have to call 911.
  • If you are at a public park, you may want to let the managing agency know what you’re doing. They may be able to provide trash bags and safety support.
  • Consider inviting a life guard to your event if necessary.
  1. Depending on your group, the cleanup may be more fun if you made it competitive by splitting up the volunteers into teams. This will also have the added benefit of motivating folks to stay on task and be more productive.
  2.  Before the teams start, share some grim pictures of wildlife entanglements. Remind them of how important this task is. Thank them for being compassionate enough to help. April Washington 2 (2)
  3. Identify each team’s territory, let them know the allotted time for the cleanup and say, “Go!”
  4. Get permission to photograph and video a few participants picking up the line, interview some of the volunteers, and post the pics and videos to social media with the hashtag #GriffsWildTips and #PickUpFishingLine
  5. At the end of the event, gather up the teams and thank them for their participation and remind them that what they did prevented a lot of suffering.
  6. Have them pile their line in front of their group and appoint a judge to decide who gathered the most.
  7. While they are waiting to hear who the winning team is, let them know where the closest wildlife care center in case they ever find an entangled or hooked animal. Remind them that the care centers rely on volunteers and donations, so anything they can contribute to their local wildlife care center would be greatly appreciated. For an online directory of wildlife care centers, click here.

If you pick up fishing line on your own, with friends, your family, or a group of volunteers, please take photos, upload them to social media and tag me by using the hashtag #GriffsWildTips

Subscribe to my channel to see more Griff’s Wild Tips and the occasional dance video. And please share Griff’s Wild Tips videos often. Did you see the last one titled, How to Make Seed Bombs? It’s going to take a lot more of us who care about our finned, furred, feathered, and scaled neighbors to take actions (big and small) to save their habitat (homes).

Katelyn Rose Garcia

 

I Get By With A Little Help from My Facebook Friends.

This week I wrote a post on Facebook asking you for some good news. At the time that I asked for your good news, I was suffering from what some folks call, “ecological depression.” I define it as the state of hopelessness that I feel when I witness wildlife and their habitats losing ground against humans’ continuously spreading impacts.

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In my late teens and twenties, I felt this despair often enough that it radicalized me for a while. But thanks to some good mentors, I learned that those tactics that arose out of despair/anger weren’t as helpful as I wanted them to be. So, I switched it up. I followed in the steps of people who were using empathy, compassion, and peaceful community action to help wildlife and their habitats (environmental educators, wildlife rehabilitators, ecological restorationists, and natural resource interpreters).  That is how I became a practicing Solutionary.

Still… once in awhile I get sucked into the hopelessness and despair and anger. That’s when I need to identify things to be grateful for. I was having a problem going into that mode this week, so I asked y’all for help. You came through in a big way. Thank you! There were way more comments than I expected and all of them were celebrations of good news! It only took reading a few comments to notice that I was starting to feel better. And each one after brought me further out of the rut. They also helped to demystify some of you who I only know from social media, but now I see you beyond the profile pics. Being grateful with you made me feel like we were somehow connected. Thanks to all of you who participated.  And it’s not too late to add your celebrations/good news! See my post from March 28th or put them in the comment section under this blog entry.

Today (thanks you you), I feel like a Solutionary again. I’m making two Griff’s Wild Tips videos where I will explain how you can help wildlife from your home, work, and/or local area. One video will be about preventing bird strikes and the other will be about how to organize a fishing line clean up.  Both are coming to my YouTube Channel and blog soon (links to both in first comment box).

 

Griff’s Wild Tips: How to Make Seed Bombs (AKA Seed Balls).

Seed bombsMaking native plant seed bombs (AKA seed balls) is a great way to engage friends and family into helping you save the world! Well… you will at least save some pollinators and maybe some of the plants and predators that depend on them. Native plants evolved with the other players in their local eco-game, which means that some insects (like moths and butterflies) have evolved  to resist some of the natives’ toxins. Those plants that they have evolved an “immunity” to become the plants that they lay their eggs on. It’s the plants their larvae (caterpillars) feed on. (Think monarch and milkweed).  Many moths and butterflies can only lay their eggs on one or a handful of related plants that they evolved with. Once those plants are gone, so are the butterflies. And since songbirds feed insects (especially caterpillars) to their young, less native plants also means less songbirds. So let’s plant the plants that are native to our regions!!! Seed bombs are a fun way to do that.

I recently made a bunch of seed bombs with some young adults in the California Conservation Corps, and was stoked to see them enjoying themselves. I think they liked putting the seed balls out as much as making them. Making native plant seed bombs and distributing them outdoors opened the gates for many different conservation conversations among them: like why native plants are far better for local wildlife than non-native wildlife, and where are the best sites to place our “bombs” to ensure the seeds would have the right amounts of sun and shade, water availability, etc, in order to sprout.

Seed bombs are balls made of equal parts clay and soil that encase seeds. They solve some of the challenges that casting native wildflower seeds frequently have. When you cast seeds on the ground, they often get baked by the sun, blown away by the wind, washed away by heavy rains, or eaten up by birds and/or rodents.  Seed bombs protect seeds from those challenges.

On YouTube you can find several different seed bomb recipes which may include professed insect, fungal, and/or animal repellants like cayenne pepper and cinnamon. I’m not sure if those spices actually help protect the seeds, but if you have had good experiences with different seed bomb recipes and secret ingredients, please let me know in the comment section.

Also, if you have a better name than “seed balls” or “seed bombs,”  let me know. Both sound funny to me, but it’s not a big deal.

Now check out my first video in the series “Griff’s Wild Tips” titled, How to Make Seed Bombs/Balls.

To find out which native plants grow in your area, check out the native plant society in your state. For example, in my state we have the California Native Plant Society.

Here is a succinct article from the Audubon Society about how and why to make seed balls, titled Making Seed Balls to Help Birds.

Here is another interesting articles about Seed Bombs.

For more information on why you should plant native plants, check out this book by Dr. Tallamy titled, Bringing Nature Home. I highly recommend it for everyone, but especially for those of you who advocate for wildlife/human coexistence, native plant gardening and restoration, pollinators, and wildlife corridors.

Rest in Peace, Dear Lion

 

Many wildlife species have been traveling on the same routes for thousands of years–as is determined by the shape of the land and the distance between food, water, and shelter sources. They did not evolve for hollow rocks that whiz across the land at 65 mph and come equipped with eyes that glow so bright at night that you can’t look away. This is why you see so many of them dead along our highways. Our roads dissect and fragment their routes, their food and water sources, their homeland. Our cars kill them–and sometimes we are injured or die as a result of the collision, as well. As our population continues to grow at an unbelievable pace, more of their habitat (homeland) is cut up into smaller and smaller chunks. We sprawl, they diminish. It doesn’t have to go like this. As the most intelligent animal that the Earth has known–and the apparent manager of all other Earthly beings-we can give them more dignity and compassion by building wildlife overpasses and underpasses, protecting and restoring their habitat, inviting some of them to coexist with us in our towns, yards, parks, and just by being curious about their lives, their roles in nature, and their individual “personalities.” (Yes, tell me your pet does not have its own personality, wild animals may as well. If “personalities” is too much for you, substitute it with “way of being.”) If observed carefully, you may notice that individual animals have characteristics that make them a little different than their litter mates, flock, etc. They are not organic bags of blood, fur, feather, and claws without conscious. Watch them, and let me know if you notice something. You can start helping wildlife right now by going outside and watching them (we care more about what we understand), look for their signs (tracks, poop, nests, feeding habits), by planting plants that are native to your region, and by joining groups like the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). NWF is working to help us coexist with wildlife. If you’re in California, check out National Wildlife Federation California RIP P23 (Puma 23) Check out full article about P23’s death here: 

 

Assume a Best Intent

 

Mistakes truly are teachers that should be learned from. And life brings them to us daily–always will. I recently heard a quote that was meaningful to me, “Life isn’t here to make you happy, it’s here to make you more conscious.” (Conscious meaning aware). One of the best ways for me to stop an ineffective behavior, learn a lesson, and adopt a new tactic is to get a “taste of my own medicine.” For example: sometimes I am too suspicious of people’s motives. I assume that their intent is selfish and somehow against me.
Recently someone flipped the script and did this to me in a too-frustrated way (seemed to assume that I had wasted their time purposefully and came at me sideways). I was pretty disappointed–more so than was necessary considering that I’ve done the same thing to others many times. OK… keepin’ it real: I was hella pissed and took it straight to the ego AKA butt-hurt with that “how-dare-they!” feeling. But eventually I accepted that it was a healthy experience. It made me realize how often I’ve made this same mistake, and how discouraging it must have been for the other person to realize that my initial reaction to them was to suspect that they were trying to screw me over. When I realize that I have done this, I always do damage control. I’ve read that this misjudgment is natural to humans and have taken my friend Raquel’s advice to try to practice “assuming a positive intent instead of a negative one,” especially with family, friends, and coworkers. I think that’s a good practice to do before we verbalize our suspicions, or react angrily when we realize someone misread us, is to use this THINK graph. Don’t get me wrong, I know that sometimes people are trying to “play me,” but the THINK graph would still help in my response to those people, as well. All in all, I’ve remembered once again to Be Kind. And I’m feeling grateful that I’m still learning.

Corps Programs: Good for Nature, Good for YOUth!

how-to-join-a-corps-program2Corps Programs: Good for Nature, Good for YOUth  by John Griffith

There are a lot of reasons to love the 130+ corps programs in the United States. Who doesn’t love the idea of programs that hire youth to build trails on public lands, restore wildlife habitat, and respond to a community’s natural disasters (like wildfires and floods) while helping them get a high school diploma if they need it, and then offering them thousands of dollars in college scholarships after one year of service? What a great investment in our society! It’s a way better alternative than those same young folks just hanging out at mom’s house or on the streets without any employment prospects. The idea of masses of unemployed and bored American youth doesn’t sound good to anybody. It makes us anxiously recall that ominous phrase, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” There’s already plenty of bad press about idle-handed youth these days, but I know a whole bunch of young adults who are engaged in trying to improve their communities and the environment. They are corps members.

Let’s start by becoming aware of why corps programs are so important for our modern American economy. We’ve all heard that jobs are hard to come by these days, and that colleges keep getting more expensive, right? Those employers that are still hiring get to be really choosey because they have tons of applicants for each open position: even the low-paying ones. Job competition is fierce! The big picture gets even grimmer for the young job seeker when you throw in facts about diminishing natural resources, jobs outsourced overseas, and elected officials who seem like they strongly favor whoever can finance their re-election campaigns over those who can barely finance themselves and voted for help. It’s no wonder that studies show that young adults who thought they were about to embark on the American dream are instead finding themselves in a discouraged “dream-less” sleep on their parents’ couch.

Luckily, corps programs give just about any youth a chance to become engaged to help solve some of our environmental problems and build stronger, more-sustainable communities. Corps programs prepare youth to enter the workforce by teaching employable soft skills like a strong work ethic, a good at-work (professional) attitude, and a sense of team. Throw in some hard skills like installing solar panels, weatherizing houses, eco-restoration, emergency response training, and basic carpentry and, voila! there’s an employable youth. What’s really cool is that most people who are 18 to 25 years-old are eligible to join, even without any previous work experience, a high school diploma, or a place to live.

Let’s talk more about what it doesn’t take to join. If you (or the youth you have in mind) don’t have a high school diploma, no worries. Corps programs know how important education is to your future, so if you don’t already have a diploma, they provide the classes and require you to get one. And if you’re homeless, or fearing that your mom—who is hinting relentlessly about you finding someplace else to live—is about to reclaim her couch, then you’ll be relieved to know that some corps programs have residential facilities that are similar to college dorms or military barracks where you can stay while you’re a corps member.

Corps programs are definitely more than just workforce development programs that provide youth with tools to become more educated and employable. Participants experience significant personal growth in a short amount of time, and it’s not entirely due to things like the challenges laid out in the CCC’s motto: “Hard Work, Low Pay, and Miserable Conditions.” Corps programs offer the environment and opportunities that ignite transformational experiences. I like this definition from the Transperia group: A Transformational Experience takes us beyond the average, the mundane or the “usual” and creates an impact that somehow affects us.

There are many ways to have a transformational experience in a corps program. A lot of times it happens simply by spending time in nature. The CCC, for example, often takes corps members on eight-day “spikes” into the wilderness to build or repair trails. Since the trail (or similar project) is so remote, corps members (and their supervisor) camp for eight days a.k.a. “spike’ near the worksite. For a lot of newly recruited urban and suburban corps members, this is their first experience at sleeping in a tent, building a campfire, cooking and cleaning with a group, and discovering and exploring the vast “wild” of our national forests.

Watch the below video to get a step-by-step tutorial on how to find a corps program near you.

Sometimes it’s the interactions with the community that bring on transformational experiences. There are frequent opportunities for corps members to volunteer in their local communities. Sometimes volunteering at a homeless shelter, animal shelter, food bank, or old folks homes make youth aware of the power they have to exercise compassion and relieve unnecessary suffering in others. These experiences reveal to corps members that they have a responsibility to their community, and that inner-strength and healthy relationships can result from that service. They discover that it feels good to empower others.

Working on an ethnically/racially/culturally diverse crew certainly leads to transformational experiences. It helps corps members move beyond any conditioned prejudices to see that a creative exchange among people with various backgrounds enhances all who participate, particularly when that practice is approached with honor and respect. Members of corps programs make friends with crew members who are from the other side of the tracks and build bridges across those tracks that span lifetimes. This experience helps to dissolve the illusion of “otherness.”

There is much more that could be said about corps programs. Former corps members say it best. If you have been a member of a corps program, please share a brief testimonial of your experience below: especially mention how the experience transformed you. To learn more about the California Conservation Corps click here. To learn more about AmeriCorps, to click here. To find a corps program near you click here: Check out the Corps Network by clicking here. And please subscribe to my YouTube channel here—-> AWESOME!