The Keystone XL Pipeline: Why We Oppose It

Recently we caught the news reports about the Forward on Climate rally, in which thousands gathered in Washington, DC, on February 17, to urge the President to start his second term with strong climate change action. Among the many environmental issues the nation faces, protesters focused in particular on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

What is the Keystone XL pipeline? Basically, it is a pipeline that would be built to carry tar sand oil from Alberta, Canada, through the United States, to the Gulf Coast.

Some of the issues involved (mainly gleaned from the Sierra Club site) include:

Dirty Oil: Tar sand oil is dirty oil and contains heavy metals and cancer-causing toxins. This oil is originally in a tarry substance that needs to be highly processed to be turned into crude oil (unlike oil that’s drilled directly from the ground). Because it’s heavy, it is more prone to oil spills. Spills from Keystone XL could potentially pollute waterways, destroy farmland, and put drinking water at risk along the entire 1,700-mile route.

Oil for Export: Keystone XL is primarily an export pipeline. Gulf Coast refiners plan to refine the cheap Canadian crude supplied by the pipeline into diesel and other products for export to Europe and Latin America. Proceeds from these exports are earned tax-free. Much of the fuel refined from the pipeline’s heavy crude oil will never reach U.S. drivers’ tanks.

Oil industry influence: The oil industry has spent millions lobbying the members of the US Congress—as much as $12 million. Millions more have gone to pro-pipeline special interest groups like he American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Opposition by native Canadian leaders and activists: As reported in www.canada.com, Chrystal Lameman, 30, an Alberta Sierra Club worker whose Cree band is located in the oil sands, described at the rally how her people are “dying from cancer,” and that fish in northeastern Alberta have cancerous tumors, moose have “puss bubbles under the skin” and babies are airlifted to the hospital for drinking contaminated water “and that’s the truth.”

Here’s a brief video produced by the Sierra Club that outlines some of the issues, including the problems with tar sands oil:

From an environmental perspective,  the costs of building this pipeline seem to outweigh any benefits (such as maintaining good relations with Canada and increased jobs). We hope that President Obama doesn’t lend his support to the project.


Eco-Interview: Matt Ellerbeck, Save the Salamanders

In this post, we are pleased to feature Matt Ellerbeck, a salamander advocate and conservationist, who created the Save the Salamanders project.

Matt Ellerbeck, aka The Salamander Man, is a man with a mission: he is striving to raise awareness of the threats that salamanders face, and to educate people on effective actions that they can take to help alleviate these threats. The actions include behavioral changes, land stewardship, and habitat management efforts. To bring his message of salamander conservation and protection to the public, Matt utilizes several platforms: media appearances, awareness campaigns, social networking, the distribution of informative fact sheets, and educational presentations/lectures.

Matt also aims to help salamanders by diligently collecting observational records of these animals in the wild. These records are sent to various organizations to help gain a better understanding of salamander populations, ranges, and habitats.

He hopes that through awareness and education, people will develop a sense of empathy and concern for salamanders, and in turn will have a desire to become active in their recovery. For those who do want to contribute to the conservation & protection of salamanders, his site contains much information on how to become active.

As Matt describes his mission:

Everything that I do, I do because I sincerely believe it will help contribute to the conservation & betterment of salamanders, which is my ultimate goal and ambition! Salamanders are the focal point of my life. There is not a day that goes by that I am not doing something salamander related, whether it’s presenting educational lectures on salamander conservation, writing articles, giving interviews, or collecting observations of salamanders in the wild. When I am not doing such activities I am planning and prepping for such efforts. A good portion of every day also goes towards the care of the many salamanders that I live with.  These salamanders take turns accompanying me during my lectures and presentations to act as education animals and ambassadors for their kind.

Below is a video interview with Matt in which he discusses his mission:


Announcing the Winners of the 2012 Frogs Are Green Kids’ Art Contest

We’re excited to announce the winners of our third annual 2012 FROGS ARE GREEN art contest for kids. We received 236 entries from young artists from countries around the world. We are so grateful to the kids, parents, and teachers who sent in their creations. As always, we were thrilled to see so many original, fun, and thoughtful drawings and paintings of our favorite amphibian. It was extremely difficult to pick winners.

The artwork will continue to be on exhibit in the 2012 frogs are green kids’ art gallery on Flickr, and we encourage all participants to show off their amazing artwork to friends, family, and fellow students. All those who entered can download a certificate of participation (pdf download). First place, second place, and honorable mention winners, please contact us to receive your downloadable award certificate.

The winners are as follows:

Overall 2012 Frogs Are Green Kids’ Art Contest winner

“Joint Action for Frog Conservation,” Angel Barachiel S. Muñoz, 8 yrs old, Zamboanga City, Philippines

Overall Winner 2012 Frogs Are Green Kids' Art Contest - Angel Baracjiel S. Munoz

Ages 3-6
First place: Todor Gargov, 6 yrs old, The Little Prince Kindergarten, Varna, Bulgaria
1st Place Winner 3-6 yrs, Frogs Are Green 2012 Kids' Art Contest - Todor Gargov

Second place: “Joyful Life in a Clean Frog Pond” by Kennard Alvaro Hadinata, 4 ½ yrs old, Indonesia

2nd Place 2012 Frogs Are Green Kids' Art Contest - Kenard Alvaro Hadinata

Honorable Mention: Mehran Hasan Bhuiyan, 5 yrs old, Bangladesh

3rd Place 3-6 yrs 2012 Frogs Are Green Kids' Art Contest - Mehran Hasan Bhuiyan

Ages 7-9

First place: Viktoria Kovacheva, 9 yrs old, The Little Prince School, Varna, Bulgaria

1st Place 7-9 yrs - 2012 Frogs Are Green Kids' Art Contest - Viktoria Kovacheva

Second place: “Frog Rhapsody,” Tatyana Kokal, 9 yrs old, The Little Prince School, Varna, Bulgaria

2nd Place - 2012 Frogs Are Green Kis' Art Contest - Tatyana Kokal

Honorable mention: Essa Ahmed Ansari, 7 yrs old, Pristine Private School, Dubai, UAE

3rd Place 2012 Frogs Are Green Kids' Art Contest - Essa Ahmed Ansari

Ages 10-12
First place: “Sunny Day” by Laura Krišjāne, 10 years old, Riga 45 High School, Latvia

1st place 10-12 yrs 2012 Frogs Are Green Kids' Art Contest - Laura Krišjāne

Second place: “A World that’s Green in His Dream” by Andrew Wang, 12 yrs old, USA

2nd Place 10-12 yrs 2012 Frogs Are Green Kids' Art Contest - Andrew Wang

Honorable mention: “Today” by Estere Zariņa, 10 yrs old, Riga 45 High School, Latvia

3rd place 10-12 yrs 2012 Frogs are Green Kids' Art Contest - Estere Zariņa

Best 3D art
First place: “My Happy Frog” by Egils Ziedins, 11 yrs old, Children’s and Youth Centre, IK Auseklis, Riga, Latvia

Best 3d clay frog - 2012 Frogs Are Green Kids' art Contest - Egils Ziedins

Best Environmental “Green-Themed” Art

First place: “Environment change took away our frogs’ living area. Protect our Earth and save our frogs from falling!” by Aaron Wang, 11 yrs old, USA

1st place - best eco art - 2012 Frogs Are Green Kids' Art Contest - Aaron Wang

Second place: “Clean Earth, Happy Frog,” Alton Wang, 8 yrs old, USA

2nd place - best eco art - 2012 Frogs Are Green Kids' Art Contest - Alton Wang


Announcing the Winners of the 2012 Frogs Are Green Photography Contest

We are excited to announce the winners of the fourth annual 2012 FROGS ARE GREEN photo contest. We were thrilled to receive such fabulous entries, and it was difficult to pick the winners. We hope you will continue your adventures as amphibian photographers and enter next year’s photo contest!

We accepted photos in two categories: Frogs in the Wild and Backyard Frogs.


First place: Sherri Simms – “Spotted this frog and had to snap a photo, looked like he was smiling! It was taken at a pond in London, Ontario.”

Winner 2012 Frogs Are Green Photography Contest - Sherri Simms

Second place: Sara Viernum – Northern Red-legged Frog hanging out in the wetlands at Wapato Greenway in Portland, Oregon

2nd Place 2012 Frogs Are Green Photography Contest - Sara Viernum

Honorable mention: Aaron Wang, USA

3rd Place 2012 Frogs Are Green Photography Contest - Aaron Wang


First place: Simply Bananas1 “Surfin’ the green wave.”

Winner 2012 Frogs Are Green Backyard Frogs Photography Contest - Simply Bananas1

Second place: Brad Merrell – “A Frog’s Perspective”

2nd Place 2012 Frogs Are Green Backyard Frogs Photography Contest - Brad Merrell

Honorable mention: Eleanor Leonne Bennett Cheshire UK

3rd Place 2012 Frogs Are Green Backyard Frogs Photography Contest - Eleanor Leonne Bennett


Frogs, Bats, and Bees: Why Are Fungal Infections Wiping them Out?

We’ve written before about fungal infections devastating amphibian, honey bee, and bat populations, but this winter we wanted to delve more deeply into this issue. First, we’ll learn a bit about fungi and why they can be such virulent pathogens. In the next few posts, we’ll explore the emergence of these infections in bats, honey bees, frogs, and yes, even in humans.

Killer airborne fungus. Photo from National Geographic, courtesy of Edmond Byrnes and Joseph Heitman, Duke Dept. of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology

What is a fungus?

A fungus is not an animal or a plant. It isn’t a bacteria either. Fungi belong to a separate kingdom that includes molds, yeasts, lichens, and mushrooms. Animals and fungi do share certain features: they breathe oxygen and get energy by eating food. Their cells are similar. Yet fungi don’t eat and digest their food as animals do. Their feeding style breaks down dead plants and animals, decomposing them. But they can also switch their diet from dead animals to live cells.

Fungi can retreat into spores and survive for long periods without food. They can live independently, outside their hosts. As spores they can float through the air, get lodged into the treads of a shoe, or float in water. Unlike bacteria and viruses that may burn themselves out when they kill their victims, fungi can wipe out whole populations without being destroyed themselves.

Why are certain types of animals so vulnerable to fungal diseases?
There isn’t one conclusive answer. Those animals that are immunosuppressed, however, tend to be more vulnerable to fungal infection. But why are these animals so unhealthy? The answers are complex and may have to do with many different causes, perhaps a “perfect storm” of causes: the overall decrease of biodiversity, use of pesticides, climate change, clear cutting of forests and habitat destruction and degradation, and other issues.

Readers of Frogs Are Green are familiar with the the chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, which has wiped out hundreds of species of amphibians.

In 2006 the white-nose syndrome, an infection caused by the fungus Geomyces destructans killed a few bats in New York; since then it has killed more than 5 million bats in 21 states and four Canadian provinces.

Recently honey bee populations have been devastated. There is evidence that co-infection with multiple pathogens, including fungi, is one cause.

A fungus called Cryptococcus neoformans ravages humans with compromised immune systems. It is spread primarily by the guano of pigeons and contracted by inhaling spores. More than 1 million immunosuppressed patients are infected annually around the world.

What is the Causing the Spread of the Emerging Fungal Diseases?

Fungal spores can be easily spread by humans so fungi that were once isolated in different parts of the world can now exchange genes and create new and more virulent pathogens.

As reported in a recent e360 (Yale) article: “Fungi have driven more animal species extinct than any other class of pathogens by quite a long way,” according to Matthew Fisher, an epidemiologist at Imperial College in London.

As Rob Miles, executive director of the Organization for Bat Conservation told Bee, Bat, Frog Deaths May Be Linked, Discovery News”>Discovery News, “It appears that many species are under an immense amount of stress, allowing opportunistic diseases to take hold.”

Information from this post from:

A Rise in Fungal Diseases is Taking Growing Toll on Wildlife by Michelle Nijhuis, Slate

Bee, Bat, Frog Deaths May Be Linked, Discovery News


New Year's Thoughts: Can We Avoid the Environmental Cliff in 2013?

As I write this, Democrats and Republicans are attempting to hammer out a deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff. But as I look back on the environmental news of 2012, it seems to me that we are also heading for an environmental cliff.

At the start of 2012, I wouldn’t have believed that I would be in my kitchen offering coffee to a FEMA employee as a result of damage to our house due to Hurricane Sandy, not to mention discussing our situation with a flood insurance agent who had helped Hurricane Katrina victims. (Learning that put our problems in perspective.) We are still cleaning up and I will be surrounded by cardboard boxes and the smell of toxic floodwater for a long time to come. I’m sure Susan also wasn’t expecting to spend eight days in the dark with no power or heat.

Hurricane Sandy has at least brought the topic of global warming up again for public discussion. Remember when Mitt Romney joked at the Republican convention about the rising ocean? Turns out it wasn’t such a funny joke.

Meterologists may argue about whether Sandy was caused by global warming, but many scientists believe that global warming turned what might have been a really bad storm into a “super storm.” Yet there can be no argument that the melting of the arctic ice caps is due to global warming: The ice caps are melting at an unprecedented speed. So what? you say. The polar ice caps have melted faster in the last 20 years than in the past 10,000 years. When this ice melts, global sea levels rise; meltwater pools absorb heat from the sun that white ice would have reflected back into space. This accelerates climate change even more.

2012 was also notable for being a dustbowl year. The US experienced the worst drought in fifty years with 80 percent of arable and pasture land affected by the highest temperatures ever recorded.

Fifty years ago Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, which began the environmental movement. Now this movement seems tired, as if nothing will rouse it, even the prospects of floods, droughts, melting ice caps, and hurricanes, not to mention disappearing animal species, and other environmental disasters.

Perhaps before the New Year begins, we need a reminder of why we need to make the environment a priority. Here’s a BBC One video a Frogs Are Green friend sent us. We all need to get re-inspired to help save our beautiful world:

Some of information/ideas in this post came from The Independent (UK) article: Review of the Environment 2012: In the Eye of the Storm