Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chpt 12, Pt 1


We begin a new chapter in this book from CS Lewis’ series, “The Chronicles of Narnia”. In the first part of “The Dark Island”, Reepicheep shames the crew into facing their fears.

Let’s read all of “The Chronicles of Narnia” together!

Image Credit:  narnia.wikia.com

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Fitbit For Wolves


(Originally posted 1/16/17 on Read With The Gringa)

Nature and technology, they are not mutually exclusive passions. In fact, our planet may now be facing challenges that will require a marriage of the two in order for nature to be protected, restored and preserved. Whether it be strengthening endangered species populations or protecting habitat, nature lovers who may see the advances of civilization as a threat, might now experience an ideological dilemma. Because it is technology that must be used to save that which naturalists love.

The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) is using SMART collar technology to track and study wolves. The gray wolves of Denali National Park and Preserve are sporting canine-customized “Fitbit” type collars so scientists can study how they patrol their territories, raise their pups, and hunt. Is such expense worth the investment? Can the world live without gray wolves? I mean, sure, it would be a sad thing if they ceased to exist but are they important enough to invest great time and expense to preserve their existence?

In 1978 the gray wolf was listed as a threatened and endangered species in 48 U.S. states. This has occurred due to man shooting, trapping or poisoning them virtually into oblivion. This, despite the fact that there are no known accounts of gray wolves attacking humans in modern history and occurrences of attacking livestock have been extremely rare. And, in such cases, by law the government has to reimburse farmers and ranchers for any livestock loss. Why, then, has man targeted the gray wolf with such hatred and violence? Who knows. But the gringa thinks we owe the gray wolf an apology. But do we owe the species the effort and expense of re-populating the country with gray wolves?

We do. A world without wolves is an eco-system out of balance and possibly doomed to failure. Let’s face it, although most naturalists are lovers of the peacefully co-existing grazers like white-tail deer, the reality is that predators are just as important if we want to keep herds of white-tail deer healthy.  And wolves do so much more than that.

In Yellowstone National Park a cascade of devastating effects followed the eradication of wolves in the mid-1920s. Elk populations became over-abundant which caused habitat damage due to overgrazing. This affected streams through erosion as groves of native trees and shrubbery were over-browsed. As the waters became more shallow, they warmed. The result was that many native fish species disappeared or became extremely scarce. As the trees and shrubbery declined, so did the native bird and beaver populations.

One species that did thrive with the disappearance of wolves were the coyotes. Too many coyotes meant fewer gophers and rodents. And, as coyotes glutted on small animals, other mid-level predators, like foxes and raptors, began to decline. With wolves missing from the eco-system, the animals who dine on the leftovers of their kills had to migrate elsewhere. Yellowstone also saw declines in the number of eagles, ravens, and even bears.

So what is life like without wolves? Decimated grasslands and tree copses, shallow rivers and streams, lots of coyotes and deer and little else. And, eventually, even the deer and coyotes will decline due to health problems related to over-population.

The good news is that mankind can right such wrongs with the right use of the right technology. In 1995 a program re-introduced wolves to areas of the American West. The results are dreams come true for every naturalist. The ecological balance was restored. Rivers and streams were re-shaped. Songbird populations blossomed. Trout and other fish flourished. The entire landscape of Yellowstone was re-structured into a healthier version, resembling its former self.

SMART collars deliver knowledge to researchers about wolf behavior, physiology, movements and interaction with ecology. This information can be used to develop better conservation measures. Developed at the University of California, Santa Cruz, these collars provide GPS information, 3D movement data, and distinct signatures for each wolf like acceleration, sleeping and eating habits. The metabolic rate of each animal can be calculated so that researchers know how many calories an individual wolf needs to consume for the expenditures made in activity. Scientists are even able to measure their oxygen levels. The information collected is answering questions such as what was the cause for an incident of pack starvation in Denali.

Saving wolf populations is just one piece of the save-the-planet puzzle. If you are a naturalist, the key to success in your mission may very well lie in technology that you might have typically been hesitant to embrace. The gringa sees the superheroes of tomorrow as being able to live in a tent as well as able to design and use sophisticated electronic equipment. Tomorrow’s planetary saviours need to study STEM disciplines as much as they need to study agriculture and wildlife.

Sources:

Pegasus Foundation

National Park Service

US Department of Agriculture

Living With Wolves

Sustainable Human

Image Credit:  National Park Service

Praising Mistakes Of The Past Is Insanity


(Originally posted 1/12/17 on Read With The Gringa)

The gringa wants to conclude her studies on the history of U.S. immigration by examining a particular policy that was enacted by President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration in 1954. The incoming Trump administration has threatened a revival of a deportation policy that has already proven disastrous. Again, if the definition of insanity is doing the same thing, over and over, yet expecting different results, is the incoming group of politicians all insane? Is a madman about to take the helm of U.S. government? Will the lunatics be running the asylum in less than two weeks? Let’s take a look at Operation Wetback and see if parallels of this policy should be supported or resisted if Trump attempts to resurrect this dead beast.

After World War I, the nation was hurting for cheap labor, particularly in agriculture. They hoped to fill this void by exploiting imported labor groups from Mexico. As non-citizens, such groups could successfully be exploited because they would not have political representation, other than any interest that their country of origin might have.

However, we learned through the Bracero Program of 1942, that Mexico’s government was also exploiting its own people who participated.  Legal Bracero’s were subject to withholdings from their earnings being kept by the U.S. and Mexico to pay for certain provisions of their Bracero work-visas. Provisions that should have provided benefits but both governments simply kept the money. This resulted in the U.S. not seeing the numbers needed of voluntary migrant workers participating.The gringa doesn’t blame Mexicans for rejecting participation in the program.

But industry will always find a way to meet its own need. Workers who need to make a buck will always find a way around government over-reach into their pocket. The result was that illegal immigration increased and farmers were only too happy to employ them. And, for a time, the US looked the other way while it was convenient and the citizens were satisfied with cheap produce abundantly supplied to their local markets.

But, in the early 1950’s Americans were tiring of being so tolerant to illegal immigrants who were picking those beans they enjoyed with dinner. Eisenhower satisfied their indignation with Operation Wetback. Deportation records indicate that more than one million immigrants were removed from the country. Now, considering that a racial slur was used in an official government record entitled deportation legislation, there is no doubt in the gringa’s mind that this piece of work was racially motivated and wholly approved by a racist white majority population. For shame, America.

But that’s how elitist white majority capitalism works. Exploit without a conscience those with melanin as cheap labor. Then, when your done with them, demonize them and kick them out, even if it means destroying their lives and families.

Once the announcement was made June 9, 1954, that this was the official policy of the U.S., aggressive raids and deportation forces focused their attention on Arizona and California. Law enforcement used methods like roadblocks and checkpoints. Eventually these methods spilled over into Texas as well. Sweeps even reached as far as the states of Washington, Illinois, Kansas and Missouri. Within a couple of months the operation wound down and then, once funding ran out, the government proudly announced that the “problem no longer existed”. Yeah, right. Government officials just didn’t want to admit that no matter how many people they deport, there is really no way to secure a border like the US southern border. It is extensive, porous, and rugged. Trump thinks a wall will work? He must have never heard about the ingenuity of drug smuggling tunnels.

Now, to an American Nationalist, Operation Wetback sounds like a prime example of how to deal with undocumented aliens that are in the country. Well, the gringa says, “Not so fast.” Before you accept your initial knee-jerk reaction, get down to the nitty-gritty, the nuts and bolts, the actual “what exactly happens” kind of stuff.

Currently, there are well over 12 million people in the US with undocumented status. Many of these people enjoy this status through no fault of their own. How many unscrupulous immigration attorneys do you think have taken advantage of vulnerable immigrants, taking their money and never doing a thing to manage their legal paperwork properly? Yeah, that’s a problem. That’s a problem with AMERICAN criminals, not immigrant criminals. Then you have people who have fled their native countries in terror, arrived here undocumented and have the right to apply for refugee status or asylum. In their desperation to get out alive during dangerous internal strife, there is simply no time to secure documents. Proper channels to do such a thing may not even exist. Even if they did, the very people being victimized by their government and needing to escape are also the last people such a government would grant travel documents to. Those are the kind of people our country EXPECTS to arrive undocumented. And how many immigrants do you think have been committed to maintaining a legal status only to fall victim to overcrowded immigration courts who have let their case fall through the cracks? The reality is that such things happen. Sometimes, it’s the US that is to blame.

For all of these reasons, undocumented immigrants have the right of due process as every other citizen and legal immigrant. And if you think we should just forego due process, then you are saying that we should just do away with the foundations of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. The rights of undocumented immigrants are all wrapped up in the very logic and reason behind how every human being enjoys inalienable and civil rights in the US. Are you willing to put your own liberty, freedom and security at risk simply because you have a problem with immigrants?

What kind of country do you really want to live in? Do you really want to live in a country where you have your drive to work interrupted by roadblocks, searches of your car and demands to see your documents? So, you say, “No big deal if you are a citizen.” Once again, the gringa says, “Not so fast.” There’s this little thing called the Civil Rights Act. Think about how roadblocks and ID demands could infringe upon the equal protection of minorities. Take this scenario for example:

The gringa and her caveman are driving separate cars home after picking one up at the repair shop. The gringa reaches the roadblock only to realize that she forgot her ID at home. The cop looks at her white skin, hears her flawless English, albeit with a Texas twang, and waves her on through. Right behind her is the caveman, a US citizen for more than a quarter of a century. He realizes his wallet is in his wife’s handbag because he always wears pocket-less soccer shorts and refuses to carry a man-purse. The cop sees his brown skin and hears that Peruvian accent and then orders him to get out of the vehicle. The car is impounded and the caveman heads downtown, detained for further questioning.

If the caveman is lucky, the gringa will bring his ID and clear everything up. But they are still out of pocket for paying to get the car out of impound. Not to mention the indignity and hassle. But what if the gringa had been out of town? Would it be possible that injustice could occur and the caveman could find himself shipped off to Peru? Is it possible that many like him, US naturalized citizens or legal immigrants, could lose everything if such policies were enacted? The evidence is that many already have.

When Eisenhower started a racist dragnet across the country, caught in that web were many who had every right to be in this country. Yet they were deported. So, in addition to hundreds of unnecessary deaths by heat exhaustion and drowning, the lives of US citizens were destroyed simply because of the color of their skin, the ethnic quality of their name, and, perhaps, the existence of an accent.

If the operation had truly been a success, rather than funds peter out, Congress would have voted for another round. Citizens would have expected enforcement to continue. Instead, US government spin doctors churned out the propaganda that it was such a resounding success there was no more need for deportation round-ups. And it seems that those spin doctors are hard at work for the future Trump administration. Because people who are afraid of melanin can’t admit they are fraidy-cats and bigots can’t admit that bigoted actions are a failure.

So, if you are an advocate for inhumane treatment of fellow humans, ripping apart families, infringing upon the Civil Rights of all citizens and guests to this country, and destroying the lives of some of your fellow Americans, then I am sure that you will be just fine with Trump’s future plans. As long as you are not personally affected, you could care less about what might happen to those “damn furriners”. The gringa would like to ask such people, “You claim, with great pride, to be a citizen of the ‘home of the brave, right? Then why are you so afraid of people with melanin and speak with an accent? Why not grow a pair and make your country proud. Be brave. There are better solutions to this very complicated immigration problem our nation has.”

Sources:

Immigration To United States

Library Of Congress

www.factcheck.org

Politifact

National Public Radio

America’s Voice

Image Credit: felicitysmoak.info.tm

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapt. 11’s Concl.


 

We finish reading “The Dufflepuds Made Happy” from the “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” by CS Lewis, of his series, “The Chronicles of Narnia”. Lucy and Reepicheep convince the Dufflepuds they are wonderful just the way they are.

Let’s read all of “The Chronicles of Narnia”

Image Source:  Fan Pop

Tiny Fish Brain GPS


(Originally posted 1/11/17 on Read With The Gringa)

The gringa recently read a report published by researchers who discovered that the larvae of cardinalfish, a favorite community aquarium fish, use the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate in the wild. Considering that tiny little fish are not prone to use telescopes to navigate by the stars, this should really come as no surprise to these scientists.

Now, the gringa wants to know just how important this scientific discovery is. I mean, think about it. Consider how much money and time was invested. Will this knowledge do the world any darn good? Does it really matter, in the grand scheme of things, that these tiny little fish babies can find their way back home through a few miles of underwater coral reefs or brackish shallows? Will this somehow contribute to making the world a better place?

What’s the value of discovering that fish larva, about the size of my thumbnail, has a compass in its brain? Is it really a big deal to discover that fish possess a brain compass just like birds and whales? Did scientists in Australia think that it was well worth the dough to abduct a bunch of baby cardinalfish from their home, dump them in a tank and screw around with their internal magnetic compass with a device that altered the magnetic field around the tank?

So, scientists managed to get the little buggers all confused and yet they started orienting themselves just as expected. The tiny fish babies still managed to point their way homeward even though researchers tried to trick them. The gringa thinks maybe the baby fish are simply smarter than the scientists.

One genius scientist came to the conclusion that because of the study, the researchers now know that “these baby fish actually have brains.” Good grief. A cheap dis-section of a single critter could have told you that. Was that all the knowledge gleaned from this enormous expense and effort? No, they also found that they are strong swimmers who are so intent on getting home they will swim against extremely strong currents. But couldn’t that have been observed in their natural habitat and not require abduction and torture by tinkering with their tiny brains? Okay, enough already. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty, scientific community. Does messing about with the brains of baby fish do the world any good?

Well, the scientists think that this will help them develop better techniques to preserve and protect coral reef fish habitats and the fish who live there. But HOW? Well, the gringa’s tracked down a few technologies related to magnetics that are saving threatened and endangered species:

Magnetic Signature Imprint: To repopulate waters that are bereft of fish that once thrived, many species are being raised in captivity and released as adults in the native environment of their wild ancestors. However, since they did not begin their life in a particular area, they have no reference point for “home”. Often, the adult life of fish is spent roaming open water. But in their brain is imprinted the place they call home. That’s where they return for breeding the next generation. Captive bred species need to know where to go to get busy and make families. Trying to re-introduce them to the wild is a big fail if they die without returning to the right natural habitat to reproduce.

Enter University of North Carolina biologist, Ken Lohmann and his dial-a-magnetic-field contraption. In theory, this device can re-program a biological compass with GPS precision so fish know where to go. Basically it mimics the biological imprint that occurs when a fish is born or hatched in their natural habitat. It’s kind of like when you order from Amazon, enter your delivery address and they slap a sticker with that code on your package. No matter where that package is in the world, it knows EXACTLY where it’s supposed to end up. Lohmann had a successful test with sea turtles and is ready to give it a go with several different threatened and endangered salmon species.

Magnetic Repellant Salvation: Over-fishing has impacted many species in terrible ways. Not only are food fish and sport fish decimated on purpose by irresponsible fishing, but, quite often, unintended fish victims lose their lives by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But Eric Stroud has a solution. And, surprisingly enough, he believes the solution to over-fishing is all in the hook.

Sounds crazy. Seems if you want to solve an over-fishing problem a better hook would be the last thing on your list to spend time and money developing. However, it’s not a better hook that Stroud is talking about. It’s a smarter hook!

Rather than design a hook that attracts certain fish, he has developed a metal combination that repels certain species. It seems, through his experiments, that he discovered that sharks hate magnets. Magnets drive them crazy. What started out as a project to develop shark repellants to protect swimmers has turned into a project to protect threatened aquatic species. Now, instead of protecting people from sharks, he’s protecting sharks from people.

There are lots of shark species that are in serious trouble of over-fishing. Quite often sharks are caught by accident. I mean, the same type of hook that can snag a big tuna or enormous halibut will do for a shark. And when you toss a baited hook in the water, the shark doesn’t know he isn’t invited to the party. Besides, sharks aren’t stupid. You think you’re the only one in the ocean looking for a tasty tuna or hefty halibut? When a shark sees a baited hook in the water he’s smart enough to know an easy meal is on the way. Snag a tuna and you might just snag a shark that’s trying to burgle your catch.

Since most fish could care less about a magnetic hook, this gadget has seen quite a bit of success when tested. Several countries testing the hook with real fishing activities have seen a drop in accidental shark catches by as much as 70%. That’s impressive!

In the end, it looks like research of tiny fish brains is well worth the investment.

Sources:  Cell

Wired

PBS

Image Credit:  The Reef Tank