Posts Tagged ‘Social Media’

Memories

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

Have you ever noticed how a song can take you back to your childhood or some long stashed away memory?  The same can be said about a smell, like a special recipe your mom made when you were a child or perhaps a particular flower. Even taste has its place in the storing of your lifetimes worth of experiences. The fact is that “all” of our senses seem to help attach themselves to a special moment of our lives and have the ability to open that part of our mind as if giving us an old unique key to a hidden door that we can suddenly peak into.  Amazingly our senses give us the ability to add a sort of protective layer around particular moments in time that might have been otherwise forgotten. Each second of everyday we are bombarded with information of some kind or another and its easy to see how many of the details become lost in the pile of countless pieces of information. By heightening the overall experience at the time of the event, it’s like using a yellow highlight marker on a particular sentence buried in 10,000 words. Suddenly its easy to find that particular spot.

Image from healthmango.com

Understanding how or why that works is fairly simple, think of it another way; imagine if you were to eat 1 bowl of plain oatmeal every day for 100 days and I asked you about your experience on one “particular” meal you probably would have no idea. You would also be pretty sick of eating oatmeal. Sure maybe you would remember the first bowl, or the last might stand out a bit but most meals would sort of blend over time. Now imagine one particular meal you were surprised because unexpectedly added into the bowl was smelly and super powerful hot sauce. Suddenly, that meal no matter which of the 100 days, stands out as unique. Years later if you smell or taste that same hot sauce you would certainly remember that moment in time and a large part of that day would probably come flooding back into your mind.

As we grow from childhood our young minds associate the many things we see, taste, touch, hear and smell with our experiences and those in many ways help create the building blocks of our minds. Since the nature of growing up means many of our memories are from a younger time, we tend to perceive the world with a heightened and nostalgic view. Perhaps an old street you lived on, place you visited as a young person etc becomes sewn into your mind.

Early Spring Nature Walk

Knowing this is a powerful thing for a parent. That means you have the ability to help ensure the experiences and reflections in the life of your child are wonderful ones worthy of that hopefully nostalgic view.  That is exactly why it is so vitally important that we all remember to take our children for walks into natural habitats to admire wildlife and appreciate “their” world. As we walk through a forest, meadow or watershed (or any other habitat) the smells of the trees and flowers, the songs of the birds all fill the senses with the wonder of “life” itself. Something all of us can relate too. That positive impression left in the mind of the child can last a lifetime and the love and endearment of the natural world means that you are helping to building a better future by ensuring people still “care” in future generations.

Imagine a person in government being asked to develop a particular habitat and suddenly hears the song of a bird reminiscent of his or her childhood. Perhaps that will mean that same person has pause before making a decision that would destroy the place that they hold close to their own heart because they would also understand its importance.  Now when I was raised before the internet, cell phones even “cordless homes phones” there wasn’t much reason to stay indoors. In fact I spent all my time outdoors so much so that I grew up to do things like become a conservationist (I like the term “preservationist” better btw). So my experiences as a child did directly impact the course of my own life.

The beauty of a healthy wild place

In today’s high tech world of the iPad and smart phone ensuring constant online communication with websites like Facebook it’s hard to imagine that people have time to be outdoors. As we spend more hours in front of a computer, sadly that means less time to see what is happening in a nearby forest preserve for example.

These experiences are not to be missed at any age, but it is absolutely imperative for a child to see. In nature the scent of wildflowers in a meadow, the sound of a birds, whales and wolves singing or the feeling of bark on a pine tree all create a world of wonder and awe that locks in to your consciousness for a lifetime.  I can remember watching a Luna Moth flying at night against the back drop of the moon or and eagle landing on a salmon and flying off. Those images have forever blended into my heart and my mind is inseparable from that humble feeling of respect. They are so powerful even as the years go by and I forget little things like “why did I just walk into this room” or “what was I looking for in this drawer” I never forget those magical moments exploring the beauty of Mother Nature and I never will. That is the point I suppose. Our “memories” are built on “experiences” so ensuring we spend quality time in places that reflect the best things in life i.e., “Nature” will ensure we hold a lifetime of wonderful building blocks for our future.

Mark Fraser

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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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Renewable Energy

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

Finding an abundant energy source is not restricted to the realm of humanity, in fact the quest for energy exists throughout the natural world. Looking for sunlight is a common beginning to that quest. I mean it makes sense, the sun is right there only 8 “light” minutes away and thankfully shining on our planet. This abundant energy source allows living species (plants) to take advantage of that energy derived from sunlight with the process of photosynthesis. I think we should give plants credit because they seemed to have solved the energy crisis without having to ask the question about renewable energy in the first place.

The problem when you think about it comes when we get greedy. You see at some point, life forms on Earth realized they could steal energy from other life forms that collect it in the first place. Another way to say that is “Predator – Prey” relationships. When you think about that,  it is a species (predator) taking the energy stored in the (prey). Even herbivorous prey species like Deer for example get their energy from plants that in turn get their energy from the sun.

Image from NASA.gov

So the renewable energy seems to work its way throughout the natural world both directly and indirectly. Remember food “is” energy, it’s easier to wrap your mind around that statement when you call food “fuel” then it makes more sense.

Ok so back to renewable energy. When you hear about horrible nuclear disasters like what has happened in Japan after the tragic Earthquake and Tsunami, people quickly look for alternate sources of renewable energy. Since Coal causes Acid Rain (which is extremely bad) for the natural world, finding “clean” energy is also critically important. Nuclear is so popular simply because it creates an awful lot of heat, which makes steam, which runs turbines and makes electricity. The added and very impressive benefit is that it doesn’t create Acid Rain in the process. It does however have many problems of its own, especially when dealing with the so called spent rods (they are radioactive after all).

Now let’s look at things from a different point of view. Nature does a really good job at showing us the way when we give her a patient glance with an open mind. Some forms of life on Earth do not even use Photosynthesis for energy, they instead take advantage of the hot thermals on the oceans floor. So there are chemical forms of energy as well. Taking advantage of hot thermals is a very interesting idea. Any trip to Yellowstone national park will quickly show you just how hot the world below can be as you witness amazing blasts of steam erupting from the Earth. There are even incredible forms of bacteria tinting the watersheds with impressive pastels that are using the nutrient energy themselves.

Image from NASA.gov

Taking advantage of the warmer subsurface temperatures is not new to science and creates several opportunities for renewable energy since the Earth is heating itself and we can take advantage of that. Geo-thermal power is not new and does exactly that by creating electricity from the naturally occurring heat generated at thermal vents. This process is already being used in several countries. Taking that down a notch to a residential version is important when trying to bring a renewable resource to fruition.  The first and what I would argue to be the most important step is to make “all” homes Geo-Thermal capable. There are two basic types; the closed loop and also an open loop system for residential application. The principle for both is the same. Take advantage of the stable water temperature below the ground then use that to cool your home in summer and heat it in the winter. Below the frost line in the ground the water temperature is very constant between 50 and 60 degrees all year “regardless of the season or temperature” above ground.  So you can use

Image from NASA.gov

that constant resource to control the temperature in your own home. You would only heat from approx 55 deg

rees to 68 or whatever your normal temperature is and for those who need coolant more than heat, the same applies in the other direction. The net benefit is enormous savings per month especially at the extreme climate times. It also means far less demand on other sources of heat and coolant nationally and or globally if we all adopt this method.You might wonder why everyone doesn’t do this. That’s because the cost can range from 10 to 20 thousand dollars to create depending on the contractor, etc. However, if “all” new construction was required to be geo-thermal compliant, wouldn’t that create jobs? A boom in the Geo-thermal market means people working in manufacturing, maintenance and construction and all that for a far reduced heating and cooling demand. At the same time making this process common would dramatically reduce the cost as we see in any other growing business. Therefore, when we talk about renewable energy methods such as wind and solar solutions are great augmentations to the electric grid but let’s also put focus on each of our homes own consumption with a Geo-Thermal “renewable energy” type solution.

Mark Fraser

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Early Warning for Earthquakes

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

The massive Earthquake and Tsunami on March 11th 2011 is a humbling reminder of the power of Mother Nature. The exact dynamics of what precise factors trigger an Earthquake has baffled scientists for many years. Despite dedicated research they still seem happen without much warning at all. This costs lives as people are unable to take shelter before the earthquake hits. Some have even theorized a possible connection to solar activity actually “triggering” Earthquakes albeit directly or indirectly by creating localized warming and setting off a chain of events like a form of a butterfly effect scenario. I have an opposite belief in my own humble opinion that perhaps solar activity interacting with the Earths magnetic field might help point us to an early warning system since the behavior of Northern Lights seems at least in my own experience to change prior to an Earthquake. Even during today’s massive Earthquake there was a report in Northern Minnesota of a powerful Aurora Borealis that peaked during the time of the Earthquake. Of course that could very well be a coincidence but I have to admit it is certainly curious and worthy of review.  This subject is something I have pondered many times due to a very strange experience I had back on April 19th 2002 in Upstate NY. I was camping in Franklin County in the northern Adirondacks with a friend of mine. It was a super clear night so there were a multitude of stars visible. It was during this star gazing that something very unusual happened.

Image of Earth's Aurora courtesy of NASA

We could see the Aurora Borealis shining bright green to light blue in the sky. Now I have seen northern lights many times in my life but this was radically different. Instead of having their normal look if a slowly twisting green mist or flame these looked like bands or waves like a massive conveyor belt. The lights began in the northern most point and looked to originate from deep space and at unimaginable speeds grew in size getting closer to Earth and then in a flash whipping across the entire horizon as fast as you could blink. It was as if this banding created an actual belt and the thicker banding features allowed me to see the incredible speeds. This was neither subtle nor brief and went on for hours in fact it was such a long lasting event that I hurt my neck from looking up in the air for so long and finally I had to retire and get some rest. I would guess it was about 3 or 4 am by the time I finally slept with the lights still going strong. Then at 6:50 AM on April 20th 2002 I was awoken to violent shaking. I was in a small camper pulled into the forest at the time and bounced to my feet then staggered to the window and saw something incredible as I watched the trees seemed to be dancing. Branches rattling as the trunks swayed like some kind of a slow moving belly dancer. I was shocked by the event and it took a while for my brain to process what just happened. There was also an aftershock and I was far more awake the second time. So I was ready for it and instantly stared intently into the forest looking at the swaying trees. I watched them dance for several seconds in complete amazement. News reports indicated a 5.1 on the Richter scale.

AP Photo - Kyodo News

Now this obviously was nothing as compared to the massive Earthquake of today “March 11th 2011″ that hit Japan causing the huge Tsunami as we are all watching the tear jerking news footage of the loss of life.

Our hearts go out to the people of Japan and it certainly makes me think there is very much a need for a better “early warning” system for Earthquakes. Back in 2002 after waking to the shake of a 5.1, I had actually forgotten about the amazing northern lights the night before the quake simply because the amazement of what the forest looked like during the quake that following morning. As remarkable as it all was, I was more fascinated by the Earthquake itself.  After the camping trip I heading back to the office to the hustle and bustle of the work week.  A long while passed before I started to reflect back about the strange chain of events.  It came a couple weeks later when I got a call from the friend of mine who was there the day of the quake.  He actually reminded me of the connection of the two events stating “Now that was amazing, lights and quakes all at once”.  Instantly a light bulb in my head had a flash and I theorized that perhaps the strange lights were reacting to a disturbance in the Earth’s Electro Magnetic Field due to the energy of the subsurface plates shifting.

It is certainly possible and seemed to make sense at least in my own opinion. I mean in this case there certainly was a very strange reaction between the Aurora and how it seemed to bounce back out into space. What if there really was something to that? What if the EMF field was pushing the solar particles back into space? Could we monitor the Earths magnetic field as a way to indicate pressure building up? I don’t know the answer to that and can only speculate based on my own personnel experience. I would say that better early warning systems would save lives and that in itself makes it very much worth researching.

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The Social Media Revolution Solution

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

In the natural world, species that are considered “prey” often use a common tactic by joining forces with others and taking advantage of the “strength in numbers” benefit. This can both confuse and overwhelm the predator that is challenging them. In the human domain, that applies just as much, we “are” animals after all.

Watching the people in countries like Egypt and Libya rise up and struggle to bring about change in their homeland is literally about that same strength in numbers that applies to any species.

History itself will inevitably decide both the positive and or negative outcomes of this new and powerful social capability.

Those are stunning examples of people uniting their own voices to a common cause. In a world of instant communication and constant social media, broadcasting a viral “thought” is a new hi-tech approach to the phenomena of social change. The message is instantly capable of traveling like a living breathing organism working its way through the minds of the masses. Sometimes the sway of society’s popular opinion can turn on a dime sounding the bells of freedom and the end of oppression or in some other cases to strange directions that seem to fly in the face of reason.

Recently I watched major news reports of Charlie Sheen as they seemed to morph the stories from a drug riddled public meltdown into a Twitter superstar posting comments like #winning.

Suddenly the social media “Flock” sprung into action and millions connected to watch. Was this shift of millions to help better the world, save wildlife, help with poverty or end social oppression?….um…no.

Of course the money hungry marketers have no doubt stepped in and as long as the eyes of the masses are still watching Charlie’s party you’ll see lots of drinks, phones and untold products magically appear on tweet photos. Some stars are paid by the “tweet”, very lucrative deals because the commercial real estate on their Facebook and Twitter pages are enormous.

Odd, isn’t it? I actually find a healthy forest and clean river far more important and, well “valuable”.

Perhaps it’s our definition of the word “valuable” that has taken a serious turn into the Twilight Zone. According to my quick search on “Google” looking to define the term value, I see one of the top 3 definitions that seems to apply. “The quality (positive or negative) that renders something desirable or valuable; “the Shakespearean Shylock is of dubious value in the modern world”

I would say that there is overwhelming evidence that a beautiful healthy forest with wildlife brings a positive quality to life making our own lives on this Earth more desirable. Letting it die and harming it, brings upon a negative impact and so on.

So how is it that we do not seem to “value” the most important things yet we flock to the stories of the strangest and most bizarre behavior? Not that Charlie is all that bizarre, he actually reminds me of my late uncle both in looks and in character. After all it’s not like he suddenly shaved his hair off or anything.

No matter how you slice it there seems to be a huge void between “ethics” and “value” and that discrepancy, well makes me concerned for our future and the fate of all that wildlife that I keep blogging about. We teach ethical guidelines to our children and they will make the decisions of tomorrow. That means it is vitally important for our generation to provide a healthy moral compass to our children to invest in the future of the entire world. Is this really needed in our tech savvy society? Well, look at the influences of today’s online world. Any research on the most popular films seen on Youtube demonstrates the point as the most popular films tend to avoid any social or educational “value” albeit some are certainly fun to watch.

The people in Egypt and Libya from what I see on the news seem to value their
basic freedoms and their rights as a people. They look like they are standing up
for “We the People” hmmm, boy that sure sounds familiar.

What I find hard to understand is that many of us seem to be “bored” with
real-world issues like caring for the natural world (you know, just the health
of the planet that gives “us” life) and lately are fascinated by a wealthy mans public
meltdown. What exactly does that say about “us” as a society and our own moral
compass?

I think its time that we had our own “Social Media Revolution Solution” and
start to put “ethics” back in front of “value”.

Living on this Earth made us rich by birth; we just seem to have forgotten that.
There is no greater wealth then the smell of a healthy forest, the view of an
Eagle in flight and the admiration of a young Deer fawn in a meadow.

You see, we could “create” our own “Social Media Revolution Solution” by helping promote “good” in the world. Imagine what we could do if caring about the natural world could once again be seen as “valuable”.

That is, if we could just allow ourselves the joy of understanding that in the first place.

Then, perhaps we really would all be “#winning”.

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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Living with Carnivores: The Coy Wolf

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

Wildlife comes in all shapes and sizes and I truly love them all, but let’s face it some species have a bad rap.  Carnivores for example seem to suffer from a skewed public image.  Let’s talk about that for a moment. Cats are carnivores, and very serious ones at that. When domestic cats are left outside suddenly cuddly little fee-fee is pouncing on Chipmunks and songbirds and in fact “millions” of birds and many other species are taken each year from our domestic pets.  Despite this fact, Cats are considered “cute” so regardless of the science about what really happens, they are left outside and continue to harm local wildlife because they are lucky or even smart enough, to make friends with humans. That’s an important survival skill for a carnivore these days since we are still learning how to coexist with wildlife.

Image courtesy of http://www.easterncoyoteresearch.com/

Let’s look at another species, the “Coy-Wolf” also sometimes called the Eastern Coyote. This is a large predator with some animals reaching huge sizes of 50 to 60 pounds double their western cousins and is actually due to the genetics of being a hybrid between the Western Coyote and the Eastern “red” Wolf.  Like the Cat, this animal is a true carnivore and in the case of the Coy-Wolf is also a very intelligent opportunistic and social hunter.  Unlike that Cat, the Coy-Wolf suffers from a very serious public image problem. They pay a terrible price for that fact and are hunted relentlessly in many areas of their habitat and despite their wild beauty, haven’t yet been able to win over us humans.  Coy-Wolves are a “stunning” looking animal reminiscent of wild times long ago and one would think that people would warm up to them.  They look like, and are very closely related to dogs who are our best friends so what exactly is going on? Well first of all we can’t tame them and many people are bothered by that.  They are really wild, not like the domestic cat who just acts like that when you’re not looking.  The other problem is a real one – they sometimes will eat unprotected cats that are left outside. Our pets are our family and people who have lost a small dog or cat to a coyote or Coy-Wolf certainly have good reason to be upset.  There is however more to the story, and rushing to judgment isn’t always the best approach.  Living with carnivores requires some disciplines to ensure the safety of your household pet as well as the safety of the wildlife. Think of it this way, living next to a road (like most of us do) is far more dangerous. We learn common sense rules at a very young age. “Look both ways before crossing”, “stay in your lane when driving” and the list goes on and on. Following these rules is the best way to ensure your safety. Would you let your small dog or cat cross a busy highway?  Of course not, that’s because you know the rules and the consequences.  Living with carnivores also comes with rules and is by far, much safer then the highway. If you leave food outside for your pet you most likely will attract wildlife including carnivores.  So leaving a doggy dish with food in it can attract Coy-wolves.   Leaving your pet outside unattended is taking a chance that could put your pet in harm’s way so try and keep a leash on your pet or at a minimum stay with your pet. Most importantly, do not let your pets out at night. There is no need since you can easily set a schedule with your pet so they go out when it’s safe to do so. If you must let them out at night for some reason remember the earlier leash rule.

Image courtesy of http://www.easterncoyoteresearch.com/

Like the highway, following all the rules doesn’t mean that something unexpected can never happen however, it will greatly reduce the risk of an incident that can hurt your pet, and the wildlife.  People often ask if humans are at risk from Coyotes and Coy-Wolves. The answer is certainly “no” you are completely safe I have been in the presence of these animals many times. Here is another way to make the point. Every year, there are more fatalities from “domestic dogs” then there are from coyotes or coy-wolves in “all of recorded history”. Please read the previous sentence twice, it’s important.

The environment flourishes when there are carnivores its nature’s way and trust that she knows exactly what she is doing-she has had alot of practice.

Image courtesy of http://www.easterncoyoteresearch.com/

The world is far better with Coy-Wolves.  Mother Nature chose them to fill a niche in the natural world fixing an apex predator void that we humans created. Learn about this beautiful species online from scientists studying the species like Dr Way http://www.easterncoyoteresearch.com and cherish their incredible songs. Recently I had the honor of spending time with Dr Way tracking radio collared Coy-Wolves during the night and studying them.  His critical research is helping to better understand this amazing and yet poorly understood species. You’ll see more about the Coy-Wolf and observe some actual film taken during the research trip in the coming weeks on the Nature Walks Youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/nwwmark

They are as beautiful as any species you will meet and I hope in time we all can learn to both appreciate, and live “with” this beautiful singing wild k9 called the Coy Wolf.

Mark Fraser

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The world is what we create

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

Nature- the word itself stirs the imagination in each of us. The more wild a region is, the more “pristine” a forest, then the more incredibly beautiful we perceive it. That love of the natural world is something I find with people from around the entire planet from every culture I have ever encountered.

Maybe there is something more to that, something deeper than what meets the eye. I mean why is it that we see a clean and healthy river as beautiful, yet a pile of discarded tires or batteries as ugly. From a biological standpoint is it possible there is something more instinctive at play here?  Deep down inside each of us there seems to be some lessons learned long ago that we each have buried within our brains.

That is what “beauty” actually is – isn’t it? The word describes a feeling; the feeling is created by our brains giving us positive stimulation. Why is it doing that? What’s the point?

Well it boils down to something important, the survival of ourselves as individuals and on the big picture, our entire species.  Eating poison is bad, rotten things are seen as ugly etc. It protects us so that we may live on. In the same way that bad feelings may warn us about pending danger and help protect us from harm the good feelings may also help by showing us the way. A natural built-in compass we are given to navigate through life.

Now let’s get back to the beauty of nature. Not long ago I rented a small aircraft to fly over a wilderness area and view it from above. As I looked over the millions of trees below I actually could feel my eyes well up with tears as if something long lost was remembered, something I yearned for. I even choked a bit trying to have a conversation with the pilot. It feels wholesome and “right” to look over a massive swath of healthy trees or to admire a Whale and hear its beautiful song.  It “feels” good.  You see nature is giving us a compass teaching each of us what is right from what is wrong.  So “why” would nature’s built in bio-compass teach us that we should protect the health of the forests or the sea?  It seems common sense really; we simply won’t have a future without the natural world. Just like teaching us to avoid poison is it so hard to imagine nature is teaching us to avoid destroying the habitat that we are connected too for our own survival? When we level a forest, exploit and damage the sea we are impacting our future as a species and that is very ugly. So follow your instincts – admire an ancient old-growth tree- smell the Balsams and Pine in the forest. Know that wonderful feeling you get is something more than just a great day about to happen. It’s the Earth itself talking directly to you, to each of us.

I sometimes wonder if wildlife that is certainly watching us walk through the forest on a hike or kayaking along is thinking “are they getting it yet?”  Perhaps one day more of us will pay attention to our biological -compass and navigate through life in a way that allows our wild neighbors to walk, swim and fly right beside us.  For now, we are literally at a cross roads in the evolution of our species.  We have never in history been more capable of both great things on a massive scale and also global destruction at the same time.  If we choose poorly and don’t listen to our compass I fear one day the ambers of our own species will shine no more like so many other species before us. If we choose well, we will enjoy a long and happy future on the very special living world we call both home and “Mother”, Earth.

Mark Fraser

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Social Media and Conservation

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

In our lives we are faced with so many challenges in today’s super hi-tech society. The new generations are growing up with social media like Facebook and Twitter being part of their daily lives. Films on Youtube are replacing their televisions and Smart phones seem to be able day able to even replace the almighty home computer. Information is now available at speeds beyond the collective imagination of the kids of even my own childhood.

The fast paced change of today’s world creates so many questions however like everything in life, I look to nature for examples and guidance.  You see with millions of years of evolution there really is no greater teacher then the natural world itself – that is of course if we all simply choose to listen.

Nature teaches us that species who adapt to change survive and even thrive while those who do not adapt are in trouble. Like the changing climate, social media is a shift in the sociological weather pattern. A new paradigm where information and communication create a global network that like it or not, we are all a part of.

We often think “how could technology be natural?” I mean isn’t anything made by people unnatural by definition? Well consider this; we ourselves are “of” this world. We are a species on this planet, made of the same material with the same origins of all things on the Earth. So if that’s true, then perhaps social media is a natural step in the growth of humankind?

To put it another way, let’s look at Spring Peepers, a small northern frog that happens to live in my area of the northeastern United States. After winters long chill leaves us, and the air is still brisk you will begin to here a faint call of 1 or 2 frogs singing their beautiful high pitched call.

As the days and weeks follow, more and more frogs call out until it sounds like one massive song made up of thousands of individual frogs.

What if the social media of today used in our own lives, is really no different than the call of the frogs and other species trying to communicate? It creates a way of reaching out across the darkness and distance allowing us to call out to each other? Perhaps we are a species coming out of the winter of our own evolution and instant global communication is the next step like so many frogs using sound waves to communicate across an entire pond. So in that way it is also natural it’s just that In our example we happen to  sing “communicate” our spring song on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.

Social media changes social consciousness:
The impact of media and how we are raised can’t be overstated. Our culture and beliefs around the world provide a social compass as we navigate through our lives. We are very much products of our environment.  This is so powerful that behaviors that one culture may see as wrong or ethically bad, in other cultures are considered completely normal. That’s why Cannibals and the Pizza delivery person have the same genes. They are not born different, they simply “learned” differently. So in conclusion, what happens to the social media society of today if we don’t get involved and teach important life lessons like protecting wildlife habitat? Well, we run the risk of creating a gluttonous society capable of self destruction, like a cannibal.  If we are “involved” with social media ensuring the important “life lessons” are still a part of the information we teach our children and ourselves, then our world has a great future where clean waters and forests, wildlife and even ourselves can still exist. I like that future…

Mark Fraser

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