Flamingos In The City

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Flamingos eat plankton in front of an industrial area at Sewri mudflats, Mumbai. Photograph: Divyakant Solanki/EPA-EFE

Payal Mohta reported from Mumbai for this story in the Guardian that caught our attention with images of urban flamingos. An unusual beauty can be the result of a common problem. As it is important to understand nature in wilderness areas, which is our strong preference, it is also important to understand these man-made phenomena:

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People watch flamingos from a boat during the Bombay Natural History Society’s flamingo festival. Photograph: Hindustan Times/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

There is an air of anxious excitement among the urban professionals and tourists on board our 24-seater motorboat as we enter Thane Creek.

A chorus of “oohs” and “aahs” breaks out as we spot the visions in pink we came to see – hundreds of flamingos listlessly bobbing in the murky green water – followed by the furious clicking of cameras.

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Flamingos at Sewri. Photograph: Hindustan Times/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Then, almost as one, the birds skim the water and take off in sync. “They always stay together,” says Prathamesh Desai, who has been organising birding excursions in the city for seven years. “They are an extremely gregarious species.”…

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Flamingos at Sewri. Photograph: Hindustan Times/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

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Flamingos flock to Mumbai between September and April, but this year there are almost three times more birds than the amount that usually flocks to the area.
Bachchan Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

That story continues after the jump below. First, thanks to National Public Radio (USA)’s Audrey Nguyen and Sarah Oliver for producing and bringing this story to our attention with this opening line (which goes on to credit the Guardian story as its source):

Around this time every year, tens of thousands of flamingos flock to Mumbai to feed. But this year, there are almost three times more than the normal amount in the city — about 120,000.

The reason for the influx is currently a mystery. But some scientists believe that pollution in the birds’ natural habitat might be one factor at play… Continue reading

Interview with a “Trash-Man”

One meter by one meter surface sample at Kamilo Point on the Big Island, Hawaii. More than 84,000 pieces of micro-plastic were counted. (Photo credit: Nick Mallos via GreenSportsBlog)

Plastic polluting the oceans of the world is something we don’t like to report on, but do anyway, since it’s such a widespread and high-impact issue. Below, Lew Blaustein of GreenSportsBlog interviews the Ocean Conservancy’s Director of Trash-free Seas, Nick Mallos. The Ocean Conservancy works toward science-based efforts to protect the ocean and its wildlife, as well as human communities that rely on healthy marine ecosystems.

GreenSportsBlog: Director of Trash Free Seas. That is one cool job title. How did you get to the Ocean Conservancy and the “Trash Man” moniker?

Nick Mallos: I’ve been working on trash in the ocean for the better part of a decade, with the last six years at Ocean Conservancy so “Trash Man” seems to fit perfectly. Before that, while at Dickinson College (Carlisle, PA), where I earned a BS in Biology and Marine Science, I spent a semester in the Caribbean to study lemon sharks. While on the Island of South Caicos, I saw that massive amounts of trash and plastics were washing ashore on its north side. This got me interested in marine debris and what was needed to do to remove it.

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Good Bag News from England

Image via Pinterest

Last year in October, a five pence charge (around seven US cents) for plastic bags at supermarkets was introduced to discourage shoppers from using the wasteful and unnecessary receptacles – and prevent pollution at the same time. With this extra cost, use of the bags dropped by over 85%, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. But England hasn’t led the charge (pun intended) in this effort: Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all successfully employed the 5p cost prior. Rebecca Smithers reports for The Guardian:

Retailers with 250 or more full-time equivalent employees have to charge a minimum of 5p for the bags they provide for shopping in stores and for deliveries, but smaller shops and paper bags are not included. There are also exemptions for some goods, such as raw meat and fish, prescription medicines, seeds and flowers and live fish.

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Microplastics Killing Fish

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Microplastics visible in a pike. Photograph: Oona Lönnstedt/Science

We’ve posted about microplastics before, since they are becoming a problem for oceans’ health. They can be found in sea salts and all over our shores, but also in fish, where the tiny particles stunt growth and alter the behavior of some species that ingest the plastics. Fiona Harvey reports for The Guardian:

Fish are being killed, and prevented from reaching maturity, by the litter of plastic particles finding their way into the world’s oceans, new research has proved.

Some young fish have been found to prefer tiny particles of plastic to their natural food sources, effectively starving them before they can reproduce.

The growing problem of microplastics – tiny particles of polymer-type materials from modern industry – has been thought for several years to be a peril for fish, but the study published on Thursday is the first to prove the damage in trials.

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When Development Usurps Lakes

Half of the water bodies in and around Srinagar have disappeared over the last century under the pressure of rapid and badly managed urbanisation. PHOTO:

Half of the water bodies in and around Srinagar have disappeared over the last century under the pressure of rapid and badly managed urbanisation. PHOTO: Kunzum

Urban India is witnessing a rapid growth with more than 300 million Indians already living in cities and towns. In the coming 20-25 years, another 300 million people will be added to the urban population. If not managed properly, Indian cities will turn into ecological disaster zones. In a hurry to expand, cities have already eaten into their local water bodies. Kashmir, the land of snow\clad mountains and unrivaled natural beauty, is feeling the heat already.

The beautiful Kashmir Valley has over a thousand small and large water bodies, which are the bedrock of both its ecology and its economy. Unfortunately over the last century, massive urbanisation around these water bodies has led to pollution, siltation due to deforestation and overexploitation of the many streams and lakes. Many have shrunk to a fraction of their original size while some have all but disappeared.

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Can We Keep Cars Off the Streets

Madrid's car-free zone is just under 500 acres. Only people who live in the zone are allowed to take their cars inside. Those who want to drive in, but don't live in central Madrid, need to have a guaranteed space in one of the city's official parking lots

Madrid’s car-free zone is just under 500 acres. Only people who live in the zone are allowed to take their cars inside. PHOTO: Pictures Dot News

After over a hundred years of living with cars, some cities are slowly starting to realize that the automobile doesn’t make a lot of sense in the urban context. It isn’t just the smog or the traffic deaths; in some cities, cars aren’t even a convenient way to get around. Commuters in L.A. spend 90 hours a year stuck in traffic. A UK study found that drivers spend 106 days of their lives looking for parking spots. A growing number of cities are getting rid of cars in certain neighborhoods through fines, better design, new apps, and, in the case of Milan, even paying commuters to leave their car parked at home and take the train instead.

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TED talk Majora Carter : Greening the Ghetto, how entrepreneurial conservation and urban regeneration lead to more social justice

This seminal talk from 2006 by Majora Carter, founder of the Majora Carter Group, introduced me to entrepreneurial conservation. So you can say it kind of led me here.

It is unfortunate how the reputation of a neighbourhood may reflect on its inhabitants. In french the silly expression “C’est le Bronx” refers to a messy room. People from the Bronx, Majora Carter included, decided to change this image. In fact, they decided to reclaim their rivers, their air, their land while creating jobs, leisure activities for local families, a safer gentler environment for children to grow up in.

It’s a story I’d like to hear about in many neighbourhoods around the world.