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Nature

Science

32 years separate this before and after of a beautiful Washington forest. Take a look.

Our relationship with our planet can be mutually beneficial if we commit ourselves to sustainability.

A return to green over decades.


Douglas Scott grew up on Washington's Olympic Peninsula in the dying shadow of the timber industry that had supported the region for decades.

"Nearly every home had a bright orange or yellow sign reading 'This home supported by timber dollars,'" Scott wrote on Outdoor Society.


While the region has also been recognized for its succulent seafood, temperate climate, and stunning natural formations, nothing shaped the community — or the physical landscape — quite like logging did.

rebuilding, Olympic Peninsula, logging

Logging repercussions felt on the Olympic Peninsula.

Olympic Peninsula, circa 1972. Photo from the Records of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The tension in the air between the loggers and the environmentalists throughout the 1980s was thicker than the trees being cut down.

"I heard from old timers in the Harbor about how environmentalists were ruining the region, and I was told by environmentalists that loggers were killing everything in sight," Scott recalled.

But to understand the full impact of deforestation on the region, it helps to take the bird's eye view.

Here's a satellite image of the Olympic Peninsula from 1984. The white region in the center are the mountaintops in Olympic National Park; you'll also notice the grey and brown areas along the western and northern coasts of the peninsula.

satellite images, deforestation, tourism

Satellite image of deforestation on the region of the Olympic Peninsula.

Screenshot via GoogleEarth Engine.

"When I moved away from the area in 1997, there wasn't much of a logging or mill economy in dozens of towns around the region," Scott said.

By that time, tourism had begun to take the place of timber as the region's major industry — which was probably helped along by the fact that the trees were slowly but surely starting to recover, enhancing the already stunning vistas that drew visitors.

Here's how the Olympic Peninsula looked by the time that Scott and his family left the area; you'll notice the western and northern coasts are just a little bit greener than they were 13 years prior...

recovery, ecology, healing

Some green coming back.

Screenshot via GoogleEarth Engine.

Those great green arbors continued their gradual recovery into the 2000s...

trees, parks, Google Earth

More forest returns to the peninsula.

Screenshot via GoogleEarth Engine.

And they're still going today.

ecosystem, timber, wood

And still more green comes back.

Screenshot via GoogleEarth Engine.

But those isolated moments don't tell the whole story of the region's recovery. It's even more remarkable when you can see it in action...

habitat, climate change, going green

Olympic Peninsula demonstrating the power of nature.

GIF via GoogleEarth Engine.

We don't always notice the world changing right before our eyes, but the decades-long view of the Olympic Peninsula shows the true power of nature.

It's not just the trees, either; according to Scott, the replenished forests have also had a positive impact on the local salmon population and other treasured natural resources.

erosion, growth, wildlife, earth

Mother Nature doing her thing.

Left photo from Records of the Environmental Protection Agency; Right, by Miguel Vieira/Flickr.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't use the natural world, of course. We still need wood, for example, but now we know there are sustainable ways to use it without recklessly damaging to the planet.

The Earth was built to take care of itself. We just need to let Mother Nature do her thing.


This article originally appeared on 12.22.16

Science

Viral video shows how to find your vestigial organs

Your tailbone was once an anchor for … your tail.

Image from Vox on YouTube.

Evolution of the body is divergent.

The human body is an amazing organism, to say the least.

To watch an athlete dunk a basketball or a ballerina turn a pirouette is to witness an extraordinary machine at work. But the human body is also a biological junkyard of useless ideas it has yet to ditch as we evolve.


If humans have a creator, it has a sense of humor, because why else would it clutter the human body with organs that have no use? Why is the occasional baby born with a tail? These useless body parts are known as vestigial organs.

The video below goes over just a few of the vestigial organs we can locate on our bodies if we know where to look.

Ten to 15 percent of people can see a tendon in their wrists that connects to the palmaris longus muscle. Although it serves no purpose for humans, it's essential for primates that live in the treetops and swing from limb to limb.

Humans also have three muscles around their ears that allow some people to make them wiggle. When fully formed in other mammals, the muscles work to rotate the ears in order to pinpoint the source of sounds.

Although these body parts are worthless in a practical sense, they serve as a reminder of our vast evolutionary history and reveal our deep connections to other beings on the planet. That knowledge is far from useless.


This article originally appeared on 10.27.17

Two northern cardinals captured on Carla Rhodes' bird-feeder camera.

The pandemic has caused many people to reevaluate their surroundings. When you’re stuck at home more often than you’d like, you start to pay a lot more attention to what goes on in your own backyard.

This type of introspection inspired wildlife photographer Carla Rhodes to get a closer look at the furry friends that live near her home in the Catskill mountains of New York.

What she found was magical.

“The winter of 2020-2021 was particularly brutal to humankind. After months of enduring the Covid-19 pandemic, we were now collectively slogging through winter. As a result of being stuck at home, I focused on my immediate surroundings like never before,” Rhodes said in a statement.


Rhodes positioned a DSLR camera trap beneath her bird feeder to get an up-close glimpse of the wildlife that came to sample her delicious seeds. The results are an incredible series of photos of birds and other woodland creatures from a vantage point most people never see. Rhodes calls her project, "Beneath the Bird Feeder."

The birdfeeder photos also gave a new glimpse into the behavior of several species of birds and rodents that call the Catskills home.

“As I got deeper into the project, intriguing observations emerged,” Rhodes says. “I noticed distinct repeat visitors such as a Dark-Eyed Junco with an overgrown beak, a deer mouse with a notched ear, and an irruption of Red-Breasted Nuthatches. Dark-Eyed Juncos always showed up at the crack of dawn and Northern Cardinals would always be the last visitor of the day as dusk turned into evening.”

Here are 15 of the most captivating photos that Rhodes captured from beneath her bird feeder.

1. Dark-eyed junco

via Carla Rhodes

"Often overlooked and considered drab ground-feeding birds, Dark-Eyed Juncos hold a special place in my heart due to their funny and curious behaviors. Every day they were first to arrive beneath the bird feeder," Rhodes says. "Dark-Eyed Juncos were one of the most frequent and curious subjects beneath the bird feeder."

2. Dark-eyed junco

via Carla Rhodes

3. Dark-eyed junco

via Carla Rhodes

4. Tufted titmouse

via Carla Rhodes

According to All About Birds, the tufted titmouse is "common in eastern deciduous forests and a frequent visitor to feeders."

5. Mourning dove

via Carla Rhodes

​"Observing Mourning Doves was a daily pleasure, especially when they gathered to form a clean-up crew beneath the bird feeder. Mourning doves are monogamous and possibly mate for life," Rhodes writes.

6. Mourning dove 

via Carla Rhodes

7.  Mourning doves

via Carla Rhodes

8. Blue jay

via Carla Rhodes

"Blue Jays are known for their intelligence and complex social systems with tight family bonds," All About Birds says. "Their fondness for acorns is credited with helping spread oak trees after the last glacial period."

9. Northern cardinal

via Carla Rhodes

"Northern Cardinals were always the last to show up beneath the bird feeder, shortly after dusk every evening," Rhodes writes.

10. Black-capped chickadee

via Carla Rhodes

"Little flocks of Black-capped Chickadees enliven the winter woods with their active behavior and their cheery-sounding chick-a-dee callnotes as they fly from tree to tree, often accompanied by an assortment of nuthatches, creepers, kinglets, and other birds," the Audubon field guide to North American birds says.

11. Black-capped chickadee

via Carla Rhodes

12. Eastern gray squirrel

via Carla Rhodes

Eastern gray squirrels are important members of forest ecosystems as they play a vital role in dispersing seeds.

 13. American red squirrel

via Carla Rhodes

The American red squirrel is known for its distinct bushy and dark red tail with hints of a white outline.

14. American red squirrel

via Carla Rhodes

15. Northern short-tailed shrew

via Carla Rhodes

If you see a northern short-tailed shrew, be careful. It's venomous and paralyzes its victims with poisonous saliva. In humans, a bite can cause swelling and intense pain.


This article originally appeared on 01.03.22

Science

Watch Carl Sagan eloquently explain why books are the 'greatest of human inventions'

"A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”

Carl Sagan explains why books are magic.

Carl Sagan was one of the greatest scientific communicators of his generation because he had a knack for putting things into perspective. Whether explaining the vastness of the universe through the “pale blue dot” or how we are all made of star-stuff, Sagan was able to stoke feelings of wonder in everyday phenomena that we sometimes take for granted.

On episode 11 of his groundbreaking PBS show “Cosmos” in 1980, Sagan perused a library and explained why books and the libraries they call home are pure magic.

“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years,” Sagan explained.


“Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you,” Sagan continued. “Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”

Sagan goes on to ponder how human development would be stunted if humans only shared information by word of mouth. Great stories told by people in the past would slowly change over time until they eventually lost all meaning.

“A library connects us with the insights and knowledge of the greatest minds and the best teachers drawn from the whole planet and from all our history,” Sagan continues. “To instruct us without tiring and to inspire us to make our own contributions to the collective knowledge of the human species.”

"Libraries in ancient Egypt bore these words on their walls: 'Nourishment for the soul' and that's still a pretty fair assessment of what libraries provide," Sagan concluded the segment.