Flipper Backlash

Dolphins’ Dark Side May
Have a Familiar Twist: Us

In the Gulf of Mexico, they are among the species most affected by the catastrophic oil spill that BP caused two years ago. Pink bottlenoses found in the Amazon river are also facing dire consequences from illegal mining pollution and other man-made hazards to the forest basin. And they’re still being hunted all over the world for the high value their meat is worth in the black market.
But there was an area where dolphins were still unbeatable: the court of public opinion. No longer.
But it’s not that they’ve dropped off the endangered species list. Or mass beachings, such as the one that’s just happened in South America have somehow waned. Dolphins, as it turns out, are so smart that even their messy social interactions remind us of wise guys behaving badly. Some are calling it the dolphin mafia mentality. Who knew?
You may say that there’s a backlash going on against dolphins, and that’s all their own doing. But this is, of course, an anthropomorphic and reductionist view of a species that, apart from breathing air and raising their young on milk, has very little to do with us. Except for the way they relate to each other, though, and social bonds are a reliable way to study any species.
Cetaceans, with their big brains and sophisticated social networks, connected by bloodlines and sexual partnerships, do resemble humans and other highly intelligent land mammals. Chimpanzees, elephants, canines and, whenever it’s convenient, even some feline species, Continue reading

Big Spill

While BP’s All But Done With It,
Wildlife in the Gulf’s Still Reeling

Two years ago today, the Deepwater Horizon, an oil rig operated by subcontractors working for BP Inc. in the Gulf of Mexico, exploded, caught fire and killed eleven people, in what became the U.S.’s biggest environmental disaster. It took 87 days for the giant British concern to cap the well, after an estimated five million barrels of oil had already spilled into once pristine gulf waters.
BP was forced to set aside a $20 billion fund to cover the cleanup efforts, which were undertaken along with U.S.’s environmental agencies and local organizations, and pay for reparations. Such amount’s still to be fully spent and legal battles still rage over who should pay what and to whom.
It may take years before we know for sure the true extent of the damage to wildlife, fisheries and the ecosystem the spill has caused. But disturbing reports about deformed shrimp and lung-damaged dolphins are no comfort for those who’ve been fighting for years against the use of fossil fuels, exactly to prevent what seems now statistically inevitable: another ecological disaster.
It won’t be easy. And it’s not just because BP, despite settling billions of dollars of claims from the spill, has again asked a U.S. judge for yet another delay to resolve remaining disputes. But energy policies in the U.S. and pretty much every other big western economy are still in large part controlled by the oil and gas industry.
Particularly in the U.S., such fight to end our oil dependency has been disheartening, and the Obama administration’s done less than expected supporting research of alternative energy sources. On the contrary, Continue reading

One Year Ago


Have We Learned Yet?

Power of Poop

Human, Animal Waste
Supplies Clean Energy

Two deceptively simple recycling power projects are helping restore our faith in human ingenuity and the feasibility of alternative sources of energy. An experiment in Oxfordshire, England, is turning human sewage into power for 200 residences. And a dog “poop converter” was used to light up a park in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for a whole month.
Both projects use bacteria inside specially designed tanks to Continue reading