Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Great Environmental Crisis No One Talks About

The Great Environmental Crisis No One Talks About

By George Monbiot,
Used by permission.  Guardian Unlimited and
26 November 12

The young people we might have expected to lead the defense of nature have less and less to do with it.

One woe doth tread upon another's heel, So fast they follow". That radical green pressure group PriceWaterhouseCoopers warns that even if the current rate of global decarbonisation were to double, we would still be on course for six degrees of warming by the end of the century. Confining the rise to two degrees requires a sixfold reduction in carbon intensity: far beyond the scope of current policies.

A new report shows that the UK has lost 20% of its breeding birds since 1966: once-common species such as willow tits, lesser spotted woodpeckers and turtle doves have all but collapsed; even house sparrows have fallen by two-thirds. Ash dieback is just one of many terrifying plant diseases, mostly spread by trade. They now threaten our oaks, pines and chestnuts.

So where are the marches, the occupations, the urgent demands for change? While the surveys show that the great majority would like to see the living planet protected, few are prepared to take action. This, I think, reflects a second environmental crisis: the removal of children from the natural world. The young people we might have expected to lead the defence of nature have less and less to do with it.

We don't have to disparage the indoor world, which has its own rich ecosystem, to lament children's disconnection from the outdoor world. But the experiences the two spheres offer are entirely different. There is no substitute for what takes place outdoors; not least because the greatest joys of nature are unscripted. The thought that most of our children will never swim among phosphorescent plankton at night, will never be startled by a salmon leaping, a dolphin breaching, the stoop of a peregrine, the rustle of a grass snake is almost as sad as the thought that their children might not have the opportunity.

The remarkable collapse of children's engagement with nature - which is even faster than the collapse of the natural world - is recorded in Richard Louv's book Last Child in the Woods, and in a report published recently by the National Trust. Since the 1970s the area in which children may roam without supervision has decreased by almost 90%. In one generation the proportion of children regularly playing in wild places in the UK has fallen from over half to fewer than one in ten. In the US, in just six years (1997-2003) children with particular outdoor hobbies fell by half. Eleven to 15 year-olds in Britain now spend, on average, half their waking day in front of a screen.

There are several reasons for this collapse: parents' irrational fear of strangers and rational fear of traffic, the destruction of the fortifying commons where previous generations played, the quality of indoor entertainment, the structuring of children's time, the criminalisation of natural play. The great indoors, as a result, has become a far more dangerous place than the diminished world beyond.

The rise of obesity, rickets and asthma and the decline in cardio-respiratory fitness are well-documented. Louv also links the indoor life to an increase in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other mental ill-health. Research conducted at the University of Illinois suggests that playing among trees and grass is associated with a marked reduction in indications of ADHD, while playing indoors or on tarmac appears to increase them. The disorder, Louv suggests, "may be a set of symptoms aggravated by lack of exposure to nature". Perhaps it's the environment, not the child, that has gone wrong.

In her famous essay The Ecology of Imagination in Childhood, Edith Cobb proposed that contact with nature stimulates creativity. Reviewing the biographies of 300 "geniuses", she exposed a common theme: intense experiences of the natural world in the middle age of childhood (between 5 and 12). Animals and plants, she contended, are among "the figures of speech in the rhetoric of play ... which the genius in particular of later life seems to recall."

Studies in several nations show that children's games are more creative in green places than in concrete playgrounds. Natural spaces encourage fantasy and roleplay, reasoning and observation. The social standing of children there depends less on physical dominance, more on inventiveness and language skills. Perhaps forcing children to study so much, rather than running wild in the woods and fields, is counter-productive.

And here we meet the other great loss. Most of those I know who fight for nature are people who spent their childhoods immersed in it. Without a feel for the texture and function of the natural world, without an intensity of engagement almost impossible in the absence of early experience, people will not devote their lives to its protection. The fact that at least half the articles on ash dieback disease in the newspapers have been illustrated with photos of beeches, sycamores or oaks seems to me to be highly suggestive.

Forest schools, Outward Bound, Woodcraft Folk, the John Muir Award, the Campaign for Adventure, Natural Connections, family nature clubs and many others are trying to bring children and the natural world back together again. But all of them are fighting forces which, if they cannot be turned, will strip the living planet of the wonder and delight, of the ecstacy - in the true sense of that word - that for millennia have drawn children into the wilds.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Become an ISEA Volunteer Instructor

Become an Inland Seas Education Association (ISEA) volunteer instructor and help provide students with a unique Schoolship experience! Volunteer instructor training sessions will take place on Wednesday evenings from 5:30-8:30pm OR Saturday mornings from 9-12pm at NMC’s Water Studies Institute, GL 112 (715 E Front St, Traverse City, MI). The Wednesday and Saturday sessions will cover the same material and can be attended interchangeably. Each session will have a hands-on component that will provide the opportunity to experience the station!

Saturday January 5th & Wednesday January 9th, 2013: Introduction to ISEA’s Schoolship Program: Safety and the Basics

Come learn about the responsibilities of volunteer instructors, and get an introduction to our various education programs. You will also explore topics including the formation of the Great Lakes, physical and chemical characteristics of the lakes, current threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem, and challenges facing the world’s freshwater supply.

Sat January 12th & Wed 16th, 2013: Weather and Limnology Station

What is a Van Dorn bottle? In this session you will learn how students collect samples of fish, water, plankton, and benthos aboard the Schoolship. You will also learn how to collect weather data by measuring wind speed and direction, visibility, cloud types, air and water temperature, and water clarity.

Sat January 19th & Wed January 23rd, 2013: Benthos and Fish

What actually lives at the bottom of the bay? Why are fish an important part of the ecology and economy of the Great Lakes? In this session you will learn how to identify sediment types based on color and texture. You will also learn how to identify bottom-dwelling (benthic) organisms and how these organisms play an important role as nutrient recyclers in the lake. You will also learn how to identify fish and will be introduced to the life history, ecology, and economic importance of fish in this region.

Sat January 26th & Wed January 30th, 2013: Plankton and Water Chemistry

What are plankton and where are they found? How are organisms affected by water quality? In this session you will learn how to identify live zooplankton using our micro-video system and discuss the vital role plankton play in the aquatic food web. You will also learn how to measure pH and dissolved oxygen and discover what levels are considered healthy for aquatic organisms. We will also discuss the thermal structure of the lake and how this structure adapts to each season.

Sat February 2nd & Wed February 6th, 2013: Seamanship and Stewardship

How does a boat float and what makes it move? What is stewardship and what does it mean to me? In this session you will learn about buoyancy, mechanical advantage, the simple physics of sailing and about schooners and their importance in the maritime history of Grand Traverse Bay. You will also learn how it is possible to become stewards of the Great Lakes in your everyday lives. We will discuss stewardship ideas and how to encourage students to practice stewardship at their home and in their school. 

 One Day Volunteer Training Sessions April 3 and April 16, 2013 from 9:00am-5:00pm

If you were unable to attend the volunteer instructor training course this January, ISEA will be holding intensive one day training classes to prepare you for teaching on the Schoolship. The one day versions will be held at the Inland Seas Education Center in Suttons Bay.   Please contact Emily Shaw, or 231.271.3077, if you are interested in the training sessions so that materials can be provided. You are not required to attend every session, but are encouraged to participate in the sessions you are interested in teaching.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Taking advantage of the mild November weather

The ship's crew (Capt. Ben Hale, Tim Davis and Bob Hagerman) have been taking advantage of the mild weather lately, getting the spars refinished and covering our small boat fleet ahead of the winter snows.

Today we moved the life raft (technically an inflatable buoyant apparatus) to the Traverse Tall Ship Co. for shipping to Duluth for its annual inspection.

Spars after refinishing (an annual task).  Note the lack of snow.

Happy Thanksgiving....Capt. Tom

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Schooner Inland Seas Ready for the Winter

With all systems laid up and the cover in place, Inland Seas is ready for winter.  We will be busy all winter with maintenance items, but hopefully we will get through the coming snow and ice and be ready for spring, our 25th season!
Winter cover in place. 

Inside the whale.

When the sun shines it can be quite pleasant inside, even in mid-winter.
Nice job on the lay-up and cover, Capt. Ben, Bob and Capt. Jan.    ---Tom K.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

We Remember....Mariner's Memorial Service, November 9, 2012

TRAVERSE CITY – The community is invited to attend the 37th annual Mariners Memorial Service at noon Friday, November 9 in the courtyard of the Great Lakes Maritime Academy at NMC's Great Lakes Campus.

The memorial service is held to remember and honor mariners who have perished on the Great Lakes and oceans and is sponsored by the Student Propeller Club, Port 150, of the Great Lakes Maritime Academy.

The Great Lakes Campus is located at 715 E. Front Street, at Barlow Avenue (next to the Holiday Inn) in Traverse City. Guests are invited to enter through the glass exhibition hall and proceed into the outdoor courtyard on the north side (harbor side) of the Academy.

Refreshments will be served following the service. For more information, call the Great Lakes Maritime Academy at (231) 995-1200.

For more information contact John Berck, Great Lakes Maritime Academy,, (231) 995-1200.

For a look at the weather during the November 10, 1975 storm, click here.   

River and Stream Restoration Featured in ISEA Great Lakes Seminar on Wednesday

Dr. Ashley Moerke, Associate Professor of Biology and Co-Director of the Aquatic Research Laboratory at Lake Superior State University, Sault Sainte Marie, MI., will be speaking about the potential benefits and ramifications of restoring stream connectivity. Dr. Moerke will introduce the extent of stream and river fragmentation and the more recent trends towards the restoration of connectivity of flow, nutrients, and aquatic organisms. She will then discuss the possible benefits, such as returning free-flowing conditions, and ecological costs, including allowing non-natives to colonize upstream habitat, of restoring stream connectivity. Finally, Dr. Moerke will highlight her research investigating the effects of non-native salmon on Great Lakes tributaries during their spawning runs.

The seminar will be held at the Inland Seas Education Center in Suttons Bay on Wednesday November 7th at 7pm. This event is free and open to the public. For information call 231-271-3077.

By the way, LSSU's Aquatic Research Laboratory has a great "fish cam" in the St. Mary's River. 

Sault Edison Powerhouse, home of the LSSU Aquatic Research Laboratory
St. Marys River in background.

We Remember Bounty

Bounty on Lake Michigan, August 2010.  Photo by Inland Seas' Mate, Allen Wolfe