Posts Tagged ‘Mark Fraser’

Federal Budget Cuts and the Environment

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

When thinking about something’s “value” we often get confused by just exactly what that means. Seeing value in only direct monetary terms is short sided and can easily lead us astray. Think of it this way, compare the “value” of lets say gold, to the “value” of air. We think of air as free, and gold is – well, valuable – how odd is that?   Just imagine that if you take gold away, your fine but take air away and you’ll die. Seems to me that air should have far more value then gold since we can not live without it. Compare diamonds and water – do you see my point? These days we seem to describe something as valuable based on a flawed system. All too often we loose site of what’s really important and take them for granted. The children then grow up in a world where they are taught to hold monitory things as far more important then the natural world, which is dangerous for the well being of everything and is something we need to correct right away. If you replace the word “valuable” with the word “precious” it helps but still we see terms like “precious metals” as opposed to “precious forests”.

Image from forestpolicyresearch.com

How does this poor use of the term valuable lead us astray? Take the recent budget cuts here in the United States. The goal was to cut spending so they pulled money from things considered less important, or to put it another way, less valuable. Being a naturalist all my life I knew what that meant long before anyone itemized the cuts because I have seen this many times. It means that laws protecting the environment, agencies whose job it is to enforce environmental protection even protected wildlife habitat all come under attack. That’s because of the confusion about value. There are those in government that want very much to exploit the natural world for profit and have a long track record of doing exactly that. Trading (air) and (water) for (gold) and (diamonds) when you think about it.

The irony is that I know we are better then this and so do you. I believe the majority of us care, I mean who wants their family to not have air and drinking water?  What I can not understand is why so many of us are all but unaware when these “precious and valuable” natural resources come under attack. Our future depends on our society learning to live “with” the natural world and not in spite of it. We all would rather see a clean and healthy watershed and forest then a devastated one.

Image from Care2.com

In the recent federal budget cuts were things like “lifting protections for gray wolves in Montana and Idaho. Now I am no economist mind you, but how exactly does failing to protect an endangered species help federal budget shortcomings? What that really is all about is special interest groups out west in this particular case, called “ranchers” who have been trying to open up wolves to hunting since they were reintroduced. The Wolf has as much right to exist on public land as any other species does and certainly more right then free roaming domestic cattle in my opinion. They are public lands we are talking about not just a particular piece of private land. Now in my case after being involved with these discussions and paying attention to what has been happening I no longer consume beef. I made that choice many years ago after hearing multiple reports of ranchers killing wolves. I figured that was the one thing I had the immediate power to do and that no one person or organization had the power to control. So instantly I was no longer their customer and therefore stopped supporting their business. When you purchase beef you are funding them after all. We have all heard the term “the customer is always right” because in business you want to protect the relationship with your customers because that is literally how you are paid. The point being if enough of the beef consuming public wants to “protect wolves” we could then demand it of the ranching community by our own purchase decisions. There are some ranchers, that have stood up and “do” actually work with environmental groups to protect their cattle but at the same time not harm the wolves. Those ranchers should get more publicity for their positive contributions and also provide a venue for those in that market. In this way, protecting wolves would become a reality because in the end of the day don’t “we the people” control that money. We just need to put our money in the right places where we see the most “value”. Imagine that instead of the flash mob phenomena simply dancing in a mall, we instead used the power of social media to take control of protecting wildlife by shifting our purchase power.  Rest assure that there is nothing that gets attention to a cause like moving our buying power money around from folks who hold that, as the most… “valuable”

Wolves are “valuable” because a clean and healthy natural world does consist of apex predators.

Image of Earth's water cycle from NASA.gov

Other recent cuts that gave me direct pause were things like the gut wrenching $1 billion from Environmental Protection Agency. Remember the EPA enforces laws to protect against greenhouse gases, clean drinking water etc. Think of what will happen at the hands of coal plants for example, without that level of monitored and safeguards in place. Other groups that received cuts were the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) consisting of industry scientists around the world dealing with the impact of climate change. There was even $407 million from energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. Ironic when you think about how they are cutting the funding protecting against greenhouse gases and then cutting the funding for new sciences to help break our dependency on things that produce, greenhouse gases. Projects like high speed rails not only help reduce greenhouse gases by providing alternative commuting but also create jobs so I found that odd that they have even cut funding to a high speed rail system. At the same time as we are talking about federal “overspending” I was curious about how much money was being spent overseas. What does it cost to be in Iraq and Afghanistan these days etc? A quick online search shows that we spent over 1.1 “trillion” (with a T) dollars overseas fighting battles in places that produce oil. A source of energy that creates greenhouse gases. I found this website with a chart showing how fast money is being spent overseas that is actually a near real time view. http://costofwar.com/en/ I am not affiliated with the site so I cant speak about it other then they have a great chart showing the cost.

Now let’s talk again about our use of the term “value”.

According to dictionary.com the top three definitions of value are as follows:

1. relative worth, merit, or importance: the value of a college education; the value of a queen in chess.

2. monetary or material worth, as in commerce or trade: This piece of land has greatly increased in value.

3. the worth of something in terms of the amount of other things for which it can be exchanged or in terms of some medium of exchange.

I still am not really seeing the point of why we think “money” is more “valuable” then “Clean Air”, “Clean Water” and “Wildlife”. I believe we have become confused about what’s important in life and those who would sacrifice all we have for a quick profit are making decisions that will profoundly impact each one of us, our children and the world we all share.

Nothing is more valuable then Mother Earth and its time we recognized that.

Mark Fraser

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The Jersey Barrier

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

Many of us have a common path to commute from each day. Part of our normal routines headed both towards and back home from our place of daily work. Along my own commute I drive along this one particular highway that cuts in to the middle of some local conservation land. It’s a nice area with a lot of deciduous trees on either side of the highway and I have seen many species like Deer, Hawk and Fox on several occasions.

Some years back a project to widen the road began as a part of Massachusetts “Big Dig” project and the state began to open up the highway infrastructure in and around the city of Boston. For along time this had not impacted the commute in my area away from the city until finally they decided to work on the highways further north of Boston and then my normal predictable commute suddenly changed dramatically. That small little highway near conservation land was becoming larger and the work took off at a feverish pace for a couple of years or more. It took a long time for things to settle back down but in time, it eventually did. Although the daily roar of heavy equipment had stopped one legacy of the construction work remained, the “Jersey Barrier”.  For those of you who don’t know what a Jersey barrier actually is; they are those approx 3 foot tall cement walls made of snap together sections along the highways and even secondary roadways. They are made by pouring concrete into a re bar filled mold and have become all the rage in the construction world because they can be poured “as needed”. So widespread is there use as a highway traffic barrier that there hasn’t been much thought about their ecological impact. Imagine being a Mouse, Skunk, Porcupine, Opossum etc and being on the wrong side of a 3ft high smooth surface that you absolutely can not cross.

"Many species like this female Snapping Turtle run into serious problems trying to lay their eggs because they can't cross Jersey Barriers. This often causes them to become fatally trapped on the roadway."

What about a turtle trying to reach a pond? It is not a small unimportant consideration; it is becoming a very big deal. Once they were installed the forest on either side of the road was totally separated for smaller wildlife since between the north and south bound lanes were endless miles of tightly connected barriers, each tied together neatly in a long and seamless string stretching far beyond the actual conservation land and across countless towns. That habitat has been “fractionalized” into two separate non connected realms each only half of what its original size was. There are places that have water on one side in the form of a marsh and forest on the other.  The problem is that often individual towns conservation commissions miss the point since they simply see this as part of the highway department and are not necessarily thinking about the “connect-ability” of protected conservation land along the highway and rather just the single parcels themselves.

One of the most important things to consider when protecting wildlife is undoubtedly the preservation of habitat and lots of it. It seems simple enough at first thought; I mean what can be so difficult about remembering to leave some forest and wetlands aside so that our wild neighbors have a place to live? The problem comes down to more of a “big picture” scenario. By that I mean most towns and municipalities make jurisdictional laws specific for their own region, and list of conservation parcels.  This does not mean they consider the connection points between parcels especially when they intersect other towns or jurisdictions. Wildlife on the other hand doesn’t really care about what we humans call a town, state or nations border.  They are living with something we humans often idealize and rarely actually come to know and fully understand ourselves, called “Freedom”.
They will roam wherever they need to based on food availability, the search for a mate, curiosity about a new territory etc.

They don’t worry about taxes or town councils or even passports for that matter. They live a truly “free” lifestyle and do their best to live around and with, all of us. That is, until we create a physical barrier preventing them from moving across from one side of a habitat to another. Just imagine in an urban environment,  there are many roads with many Jersey Barriers.

Image from the Florida D.O.T Website

That means we can literally create “boxes” of island habitats where nothing small and flightless can get in or out from. Keep in mind “nothing will dig under a Jersey Barrier in the middle of the asphalt highway”. Just imagine if you were a small mammal and during the night attempt to cross the road to get to your drinking water, you could be in very big trouble. Wandering miles to find a place to cross trapped up against the Jersey Barrier and traffic. Too many times I have witnessed first hand turtles, opossum, skunks etc trapped up against a miles long barrier with traffic whizzing by on one side and the cement wall trapping them on the other. That being said there is a simple solution after all; why not create gaps at every few hundred feet?

It can be done and is in some case like in the image below where a simple gap has been left for wildlife.

Image from D.O.T Federal Highway Commission website

What is ironic is that image is actually from the “Department of Transportation” Highway Commission website and even comes with caption about the gap allowing wildlife to cross. Before any traffic engineers tell me that they need to connect to provide the safety benefit allow me to point out that I have also seen a few cases where there was gaps connected by a steel plate but leaving an obvious opening. I don’t know if that was made for wildlife or not but I assure you it works for their benefit. That simple act doesn’t come with a big price tag in fact it probably costs the same as not having them since you will save money buy needing slightly less Jersey Barriers to begin with but then buy the scrap steel connection braces (made from scraps of steel “Guard Rail” Material 2 ft or 3 ft long). A net cost of close to zero. It’s simple, it’s easy, it’s cheap and it “works”.

You can help me spread the word on this one. If you like what you read in this article and live in a region where Jersey barriers are common without a gap for wildlife to cross please call or write to your local highway Department. Let me know what response you get by sending me an email at mfraser@naturewalkswithmark.org.  Working together we can make a difference and it’s about time we proved it. This simple and common sense consideration and action “will” positively help the lives of wildlife thanks to your own assistance within your community.

Mark Fraser

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You Are Not Alone

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

A long time ago in North America, a great man that came to be known as the “Peacemaker” met with representatives of many northeastern indigenous nations to demonstrate the power of unity. He held a single arrow in the air and with a quick snap demonstrated how easily it could be broken as a single individual. He then took many arrows and bound them together, and tried to break them with all his might but could not. “Together we are strong” he proclaimed. That inspirational meeting led to the founding of the “Haudenosaunee” also known as the Iroquois Confederacy. The social implications set into motion a chain of events which eventually traveled around the entire planet as European settlers in America were inevitably introduced to their first democratic participatory system before the United States ever even existed. That amazing political and social model of representatives from different groups and nations to vote for the overall benefit of everyone created a model that influenced everything from the United States constitution to the assembly of the United Nations. Though today those facts are often overlooked in many of the history books, a little digging clearly demonstrates the power of unity of thought, or another way to look at it is “To be of one mind”.

“We Are All related” and very much so in fact, every atom in our bodies has the same origins as every thing else on this amazing planet. That is not a gesture; it is science and is one of the amazing truths to life on the Earth. So we are connected in ways that most, hardly even understand or are aware of. Knowing that together we really are strong and that we each are connected is a great place to start from when talking about the environment as whole.

With the world economies in serious turmoil, what environmental laws there are to protect our forests and watersheds seem to be on the chopping block yet again. Unlike the social activism of the 1960s and 1970s recent generations have quieted down to a point where many of the things we believe in and care for have honestly come under very serious and real threats. If we do not stand up for what we believe in, then who will? Our willingness to preserve natural resources is the only thing stopping big business from literally leveling everyplace we know and hold sacred for the pursuit of money, a particular kind of hunger that can “never” be satisfied.

Remember that many arrows bound together will not break; the point is that when we all stand together with pride and honor then we are strong enough to be capable of creating real social change. You are “not” alone at all in fact there are millions of us who really do care about wildlife and the health of the natural world. Even many environmental groups have become businesses as opposed to voices for the people so efforts to protect wildlife often focus on cute cuddly species that are easy to raise money for.

It is time for “all” of us to be heard. The natural world is not an object to be bought and sold like a product at a retail store; it is the habitat that “we” need to survive. Humans and wildlife all share a common destiny, what happens to wildlife really does happen to us. That is much more then a nice saying, it’s a fact… When you hear about species extinctions on television or online remember you are also a species and the habitat loss causing that extinction is working its way into your own habitat as well.

We have reached a fork in the road of our history like never before and have to now decide which way to go. Do we sit back and let big businesses decided what happens to the clean and wild places we all love and cherish or do we grab the steering wheel and change the course of our destiny to a better place?

“We decide”. Just know this for those of you who do stand to help preserve clean and healthy wild places, to raise your voices to be heard in your communities you remember that “You are not alone” and I am standing right beside you, we all are.

Mark Fraser

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Evidence of Alien Life

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

Today I woke to news reports of a NASA scientist stating he has found confirmation of life beyond Earth. That is going very well with my morning coffee.

Now let’s face it most of us new sooner or later we would finally hear about conclusive evidence of alien life. Ironic when you think about how not long ago that might have sent some running into the streets while religious scholars tried to explain away the implications.

Our current generation is just a wee bit more desensitized to new information.  Now since I make films and write specifically about the preservation of wildlife you might wonder what is the connection?  Being a naturalist simply means I spend my life in the admiration of the natural world.  I have always included space in that belief because our whole planet literally floats in the sea of space and when you start to look at the unimaginable size of the known universe it gets really tough to think that life wouldn’t be plentiful in the oceans of the cosmos.

The problem for us is a small one, literally. You see compared to all that, we are not even microscopic. I don’t just mean us, or even our planet for that matter, I mean our entire solar system is just a tiny spec.  Our life giving Sun is actually one single star floating in the Milky Way galaxy with somewhere between 100 and 400 billion “other” stars. It is even estimated there may be as many as 50 “billion” planets in our own galaxy and a real possibility that a huge number is residing in the so-called “habitable zone” distance to their own stars.

It’s so close and yet so very far?

The distance to our nearest neighbor star, “Proxima Centauri” is only 4.24 light years . Ok in miles, each light year is 5,865,696,000,000 miles (that is a really big number) so if you multiply that by 4.24, then you’ll know how many miles to the closest star. It gets super interesting when you think that the other approximately 400 billion stars in the Milky Way are all “much further” to us then Proxima Centauri and very much so in fact.

All that is just in our own galaxy of stars of course so everything else is further on entirely different scales. There are hundreds of billions of Galaxies, just as large as the Milky Way.  So like I said, we are tiny. Now when you again consider the Milky Way could have as many as 50 “billion” planets, and as many as 500 million habitable zone worlds, then the jaw really begins to drop to the floor.  Suddenly life beyond Earth is no longer possible it actually becomes “very” likely and even dare I say, plentiful?  Of course I no longer have to make the argument about extra terrestrial life. Thank you Dr. Richard B. Hoover an astrobiologist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. What does this incredible discovery mean?

I’m talking about the big picture, of our understanding of our own place in the universe? Well it means something we already knew, life is amazing, resilient and we are all lucky enough to be a part of a magic time in history where a scientist can openly share a ground breaking discovery and not be thrown in prison by religious fanatics.  It also means that we are of course not alone and that perhaps we should all pay a little more attention to the beautiful night time sky.

Will we ever communicate with an intelligent species?  I am not sure but I think so.  Since our own species is a part of the natural world I believe all the same rules apply.  Maybe one day we will hear a voice coming from the blackness of space across the great void like a frog singing across a quiet pond. When they first sing early in the season there are few, but quickly are joined by many others across the untold distance of their domain and eventually thousands of singing frogs join in for the beautiful nightly chorus.

Perhaps one day that’s what it will be like for us beginning with a faint call of a distant species looking to connect.  In time more and more until our songs unite our species across space and time.

Not yet though, this first discovery seems to be more about ancient fossilized bacteria blasted into space from some distant world and eventually raining down here on Earth with a meteor so we won’t be striking up a conversation any time soon.   It does mean though we are now entering a new time. From now on we can stop saying “if” and start asking “when”.

That’s exciting to someone like me.

One of the greatest joys of my life is finding a new species that I didn’t know about.

With the millions if not billions of forms of life on our own world just imagine what could be out there…

Maybe one day there will be a “Nature Walks in Space” episode… hey- you never know!

Mark Fraser

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Real Magic, it’s all natural

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

Yes, I said “real magic”, I am not referring to a parlor trick like pulling a domestic rabbit from a top hat or making flowers appear from a cane.

I actually mean everything from levitation to the ability to make one’s self invisible. In the natural world, we see wonders that make the best high end Las Vegas magic show seem at best, cute. No offense to those who make their living that way but

let’s face it, that’s smoke and mirrors.When we look at “Mother Nature”,  it is not only reality it’s biological.

I have been Scuba Diving of the Massachusetts coast for over 20 years. Now some would argue that the colder murky green waters in the north east offer far less to admire but I am here to tell you that is far from the case.

I have seen the most amazing things diving in less than 65 feet of water that sometimes defy logic yet there they were. Let’s take “invisibility” for example, well that’s no problem for species of fish I commonly see like the incredible “Flounders”. This oval shaped fish has several types like the “Winter flounders” and is commonly found off the New England coast as is the similar albeit rounder “Window Pane”. They can change both their color and patterns on their skin to match the surrounding sea floor so perfectly they become literally “invisible”. Sure they are not as famous as the cuddle fish for such abilities but they deserve a sea full of respect for their amazing art of camouflage or as they like to say in the magic business “invisibility”.

It’s not just fish that have this ability, Take the American Bittern. A medium sized heron species with golden stripes on its belly. Standing in its grassy habitat it also will rely on its own form of magic. If it wants to disappear, it will look up to the sky and start to sway it’s body from left to right mimicking the grass swaying in the breeze so the patterns on its belly look undetectable against the surrounding grass. I had no idea how incredible this ability was until I had the honor of seeing a Bittern in the wild standing still in an open field. I watched as it lifted its head looking up to the sky and began to sway “perfectly” matching the grass swaying in a gentle breeze, then within in a second, it disappeared and I could no longer see it until it started to walk away. Ok Los Vegas, give that one a
try! Evan some species of lizards have the ability to blend in to their surroundings so well that you would hardly notice they were there at all.

So let’s talk about levitation. For this, I will leave the sea out of it because that is not only common but as a diver I can do that one myself with the right balance of air in my vest called a “BCD” and weights. What about out of the water, and in the open air and to make it more interesting, not including birds like the Hummingbird since we all know they have that down to a science.   How about spiders? Yes that’s right they can levitate themselves. It’s called “ballooning” and many species can travel this way and even amazing distances. They use a silk called “gossamer” or “Balloon Silk” to weave their magic to life. There is evidence they can travel up to 16,000 feet in the air and over 1000 miles far beyond the distance of any great magician’s theater at the finest venue. They walk to tallest point in the immediate area, then create their “balloon silk” waving it in the air where the tiniest of breezes can carry them away. Even the young “spiderlings” of many species get in on the act as a way to leave home and start off on their own life’s journey. There are even caterpillars and mites that also have this amazing ability. Of course this is an old hat trick when talking about plants like Milkweed or the Dandelion that like many species use levitation to transport their own seeds.
In nature “Levitation” is not only real its fairly common among many species.

So in review, we have covered both invisibility and levitation in the natural world.

Ok no big magician act is ever complete with out a bonus “encore” presentation for the audience. Have you seen a magician saw someone into pieces? Of course we know that’s done with the help of a couple assistants squished into boxes one with the feet hanging out and the other showing the top half to appear as if they were actually cut into pieces. Thankfully that’s fake, just a trick.  Now let’s look at another animal magician, the Sea Sponge. Although they look more like plants they are actually animals and they have a trick that would put any would-be magician out of business. If they are actually passed through a tiny screen mesh, they come out on the other side and start to regroup back into a sponge. Not that I would ever want to do that mind you but it’s not trickery, it’s the real deal.

Is their “real magic?” there answer is; yes very much so and it’s all natural. All we need to do is look it’s actually all around us.

Mark Fraser

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A “Wild” bond we all share

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

During my life I have been fortunate enough to have had the ability to travel. Nothing crazy mind you, but certainly enough to greatly expand the areas where I could take some time to observe and study the local wildlife and fauna. I remember long ago being in Central America in the Panamanian jungle for a couple of months.  During that time, I had the honor of seeing so many species that make their home in the tropical double canopy jungle environment. I remember walking through a river almost neck deep in the water and the local crocodilian species of “Caiman” were sliding into the water from the banks. I had incorrectly thought that they never grew larger then 4ft in length… whoops hahahaha. The excitement of the moments of discovery and awe of the wild world enlightens the mind and charges the senses. When we are in a forest or jungle long enough our ears and eyes seem to spring to life and the sound of the wind in the trees is suddenly a dramatic and beautiful event.

When I speak with people from around the world about wildlife, I am always amazed that deep down “all” of us are just as fascinated. Even when I have met people that at first seem as if they don’t care, I find that they have simply become so busy day to day that they have forgotten the joy of wonder and discovery found in nature. Within minutes of sharing a film and talking about a wild moment I see in their faces that deep down they care also and are really just as fascinated as the rest of us. You see, nature really does bind us all around the planet. It has “always” been a part of our lives and “always” will be. When humans first began to speak you can bet those early people were making sounds to mimic birds and animals. Probably allot better then I can do (not from lack of trying) :-) .

Taking the time to teach our children about local wildlife is absolutely paramount towards the future health of the entire world. Remember, our children will grow up and make the decisions about how we use our future natural resources. From learning about the species of fish in a local brook to learning about the backyard birds at the feeder and everything in between it will ensure an admiration that will often blossom into real heartfelt conservation. It works no matter where you are from; remember admiration for wildlife is a wild bond we each share. We just need to take the time to do exactly that.

Mark Fraser

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Make it count!

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

Let’s face it, life is really short. Regardless of who we are or where we come from we have a brief chance to make the best of our own lives. Appreciating every simple pleasure from a sunrise to a passing bird is the secret sauce to life. We are remembered by our kids and those in which we have made an impression on during our lives. The bigger the impression the longer we are remembered and eventually in time, like a long lost flake of snow belonging to a previous winter we melt away in time returning to the place in which we all came from. What kind of story will they tell about your life, how will you be remembered? How long will that memory of your life last? One generation, perhaps four generations, and then what? How far back in your own family can you remember or know the story of those who came before we did. Paying attention to the elderly is one of the best ways to gain insight and wisdom during our lives but how many of us do. They have so much to teach us and remember they have been through far more “life” then we have. Learning from their experiences helps us navigate in our own lives and knowing the stories that they remember carries the torch of the lessons of so long ago. To many first nations of North America, it’s said that people should try to leave the world better then you found it for the next 7 generations. What a thought, being stewards of the land in such a way that world is protected for so very long after we are gone. There is a lot of wisdom in that. *Making our lives count* and leaving the world better then we find it.

I have to wonder if any of us are really doing that in today’s world.  I myself have a smart phone attached to my hip. What happens when it no longer works and I must dispose of it, where do those hazardous chemicals go? There are so many examples of that in our lives it boggles the mind. Simple innocent ways in which we live our modern life that can unknowingly lead to long term environmental impacts. We have a long, long way to go!

There is good news: you see nature has been around for a very long time. We are the new kids on the block and in the end we are the ones who will live with the choices that we make as a society and as a species.

I very much believe in “hope” itself and I believe deep down we all know that we need to be better stewards of the land. It’s the “what can I do” mentality that makes some of us feel overwhelmed or that there isn’t hope. The truth is you can do plenty! In today’s world information is nothing more then a quick search online. Educate yourself to the simple steps that can be made in your own life to help. Conservation really does start with “you”. Think about that, if we each ensure our own homes make sound decisions then collectively we correct the big picture. That’s what they mean when they say “Think global act local”. Get to know and appreciate the natural world in your own backyard as much as you can because that “is” the world we are trying to protect. In time we will all be a little greener and a lot happier.

Mark Fraser

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Getting to know the world we share

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

The art of exploration isn’t gone as a matter of fact, it’s alive and well. The trick is simply being curious then satisfying the feeling. Never let anyone tell you any different! There is so much to explore and learn about in the natural world that most people don’t even realize it. Here is an interesting test, the next time you walk through or even near a meadow, see if you can name all the plants you find- good luck.  Is that too tough, try just the wild flowers or perhaps stick with Trees. You will soon realize that there are so many species of life on the planet we share it is completely unimaginable. Did you know that no person on planet Earth can name all the species? Think about that, no PHD from any science could even come remotely close- It is literally impossible. Sure you could learn the Mammals of your own hometown, in most areas it’s a small number probably in the 50s or so and maybe even the native fish well at least maybe the inland freshwater species. Birds are tougher but insects… Just trying to do that in your own home region, is next to impossible. Getting to know the myriad of species is the secret sauce to life. You see when we know what lives all around us suddenly the world opens up and we realize we are sharing this world with so many others. Some of the complex systems of life are like miniature version of a little universe. Look at the Milkweed plant. On that one single type of plant there are Large Milkweed Bugs, Small milkweed bugs (two different species) there are Milkweed Aphids, Long horned Milkweed Beetles, Monarch Larva, Swamp Milkweed beetle and the list goes on. There is different species of Milkweed plants themselves. The complexity is stunning. Even Beavers have parasites that have evolved to live only on them!

So that’s just it, there is plenty to explore. Getting to know the natural world is the best way to begin to protect the wild species that live here. How do we know a species is in trouble, unless we take the time to admire and appreciate their world, our world?  It’s really easy and all starts with a hike or a swim and simply paying attention. When you find a species try to identify it. Learn about its call, its habitat and food source. The more you learn about them the more enlightened you will feel. You can start to memorize bird calls for example. With practice, as you listen to the birds singing you’ll find in time you can suddenly name species that you can’t even see.

It’s a long deep breath of fresh air when you look at the forest with open eyes & mind. Teaching ourselves to reconnect to the natural world brings about wonderful things. Perhaps in time, we can again learn to be stewards of the land, instead of just exploiting it…

Mark Fraser

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Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico what will happen to the wildlife?

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

The massive Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico is quickly becoming the worst of its kind and soon to wreak havoc on the sensitive Louisianan coastline wetland habitats and species.  Pay close attention to the news reports, because you can bet special interest groups will start telling you “It’s not that bad” and that “it’s too soon to speculate”. Well let’s see, 5,000 barrels of Oil a day dumping into the Ocean – let’s face it, that’s terrible no matter how they try to spin it. This is another prime example of why fossil fuels should become just that, “fossils”, and scientists around the world should work vigorously in developing greener and renewable energy.

What about the wildlife?

Soon we will undoubtedly begin to see the heartbreaking images of countless species who pay the ultimate price for our hunger for fossil fuels. Marine and bird life covered in the viscous sticky oil will be in a dire life threatening situations and no doubt thousands will perish from this horrible man made disaster.

In the future we will be again be asking the questions “Why” and “How could this happen”?  Just like we did after the massive Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, and yet here we are yet again. Wetlands are some of the most important habitats there are. Many species use brackish water estuaries for a safe place to have their babies. Even people who do not seem to care about wildlife at all and only think of the business side of life still admit the economic implications of wiping out a massive fishery. Some time today (Friday April 30th 2010) it’s believed that this slow moving massive slick will reach the coastline. The species that live in the region are in very big trouble. What will “their” world look like from below when the waters surface is covered in the thick black oily film?

Some day we will finally be free of this dependency on fossil fuels. I wonder what people in the future will think about the choices we made. What will they think about statements like “Drill baby drill?” Ironically in the past few weeks the current administration just approved more offshore rigs.

We need to make companies directly responsible for their actions and accountable for their mistakes. A multi million dollar fine for a company making billions does not cut it. We need change, “actual” change, not just someone telling us what we want to hear. Those animals out there don’t have a voice of their own unless you and I give them one, and as we are about to find out, they very much need one…

Mark Fraser

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