Friday, June 30, 2006

Languages shape our World View

This is so true....

John Roach
for National Geographic News
June 29, 2006
For the Raramuri people of the northern Mexico region of Chihuahua, conservation is a family affair

The Raramuri (also known as the Tarahumara) speak a language that has no concept of—and thus no word for—wilderness, says ethno-ecologist Enrique Salmón.

Wilderness is a European word that connotes a separation of the land from humans, said Salmón, who is Raramuri.

Instead the Raramuri relate to the land with the same energy and affection as they do their own human family members and neighbors.

Salmón calls the concept kincentric ecology.

"[We] are immersed in an environment where we are at equal standing with the rest of the natural world," he said.

"They're all kindred relations: The trees and rocks and bugs and everything is in equal standing with the rest. We are caretakers, stewards, of all this around us."

Thinking What You Speak

Salmón is a program manager at the Christensen Fund, a grant-making organization in Palo Alto, California, that supports biological and cultural diversity projects.

He says that language is the foundation of cultural identity, giving shape to the way people think and act.

"Language and thoughts work together. They can't be separated," he said.

"So when [a people's] language includes words like 'wilderness,' that shapes their thoughts about their relationship to the natural world.

The notion of wilderness, he adds, carries the connotation that "humans are bad for the environment."

"If the language doesn't include that connotation, then again it shapes that kind of thinking," he continued.

But the ethno-ecologist predicts that within a generation or two, the Raramuri language will disappear, and with it their kincentric land ethic.

More than a decade of drought and the pressures of globalization are pushing Raramuri youth from their traditional lands in the remote mountains of Sierra Tarahumara.

The youth are moving to the cities, adopting a different language and a new frame of mind, Salmón says.

"Those choices are affecting this next generation of speakers and potential land managers," he said.

Lost Archives

The scenario of indigenous languages and beliefs fading away is being seen throughout the world.

Salmón cites the work of anthropologist and ethnobotanist Wade Davis, a National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence, who has documented this decline. (National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.)

In a 2003 essay for National Geographic News, Davis wrote that there are roughly 6,000 languages spoken today, but half are not being taught to the speakers' children.

"Unless something changes, effectively [those languages] are already dead," he wrote.
According to Davis, losing languages and cultures also means the loss of a "vast archive of knowledge and expertise" of the human experience.

"Every view of the world that fades away, every culture that disappears, diminishes a possibility of life and reduces the human repertoire of adaptive responses to the common problems that confront us all," he wrote.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

What I did today- BodyWorlds 2

I went to see this exhibit with mom and dad up in Denver. The organ displays including some common diseases in some of them was really interesting. Some of the full-body plastinates, while interesting, were also rather creepy. And the ones with babies was somewhat disturbing also.

Jack the cat chases black bear up tree

The Associated Press

WEST MILFORD, N.J. - A black bear picked the wrong yard for a jaunt, running into a territorial tabby who ran the furry beast up a tree - twice.

Jack, a 15-pound orange and white cat, keeps a close vigil on his property, often chasing small animals, but his owners and neighbors say his latest escapade was surprising.

"We used to joke, 'Jack's on duty,' never knowing he'd go after a bear," owner Donna Dickey told The Star-Ledger of Newark for Friday's editions.

Neighbor Suzanne Giovanetti first spotted Jack's accomplishment after her husband saw a bear climb a tree on the edge of their northern New Jersey property on Sunday. Giovanetti thought Jack was simply looking up at the bear, but soon realized the much larger animal was afraid of the hissing cat.

After about 15 minutes, the bear descended and tried to run away, but Jack chased it up another tree.

Dickey, who feared for her cat, then called Jack home and the bear scurried back to the woods.

"He doesn't want anybody in his yard," Dickey said.

Bear sightings are not unusual in West Milford, which experts consider one of the state's most bear-populated areas.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Coyotes Trade U.S. Western Plains for East's Urban Jungle

Maryann Mott
for National Geographic News
June 8, 2006
On a September night in 2004 Ken Ferebee trudged through Rock Creek Park, a nearly 2,000-acre (810-hectare) expanse of meadows and woodlands in the heart of Washington, D.C.

Armed with a spotlight, the National Park Service biologist and his colleagues had set out to count deer. Instead they stumbled across an animal never before seen in the city.

"That's when we saw the first coyote," he recalled.

The nation's capital joins a growing list of cities—including Boston, Massachusetts; Detroit, Michigan; and New York, NewYork—that these highly adaptable canine predators now call home.

The urbanization of coyotes in the East and Midwest is a phenomenon that started in the 1990s, says Stan Gehrt. The wildlife biologist studies coyotes in the Chicago, Illinois, area, where some 2,000 of the animals are thought to live.

"The amount of coexistence between coyotes and people is much, much, much greater than we ever thought," he said. "People are literally walking by coyotes every day, and they don't know it."

Going East

Historically found in the Great Plains of North America, coyotes started to expand their range eastward about 70 years ago when wolves, their main competitors, were eradicated in the eastern United States.

Deforestation along the East Coast also opened up large tracts of land filled with small prey, making the area even more inviting.

Today the slender doglike creatures with pointy ears and bushy tails can be found in every state except Hawaii.

One of the keys to the coyote's long-term success is its ability to eat just about anything.

But contrary to popular belief, Gehrt said, the canines don't devour large amounts of garbage or vast numbers of family pets.

Gehrt analyzed 1,500 scats, or droppings, from Chicago area coyotes that showed the bulk of the animals' diet consists of small mammals, such as rodents and rabbits, white tail deer, and fruit.

Today coyotes live in every park across the Chicago region, Gehrt says, even in the downtown area.

When he first started radio collaring and tracking the animals six years ago, he thought they'd avoid busy city streets and stay within park boundaries—they didn't.

A young female coyote once led Gehrt 20 miles (32 kilometers) through five different cities within a six-hour period.

"This was over by O'Hare [International Airport]," he said. "It was extremely developed and [there was] tons of traffic. She was crossing roads. I realized that night I had underestimated their ability to move across that."

As part of an agreement with Chicago city government, Gehrt puts tracking collars on captured "nuisance" coyotes and then releases them on the very edge of the urban sprawl.

"Basically they have a choice," he said of the coyotes. "If they take a left, they can go out into rural areas. If they take a right, they're going to head back into the city.

"In every single case they've always chosen to go back into the city, so those particular coyotes view this urban area as a favorable kind of habitat."

Gehrt's research has shown the survival rate of urban coyotes is twice that of their rural counterparts.

Coyote-Wolf Hybrids?

Already the relatively recent eastern coyote population is showing signs of genetic divergence from their cousins that stayed out West.

In 2001 DNA samples from a hundred coyotes killed by hunters in Maine showed only four had ancestry similar to western coyotes.

"What that indicates is a degree of isolation between the two populations," said the study's co-author, Walter Jakubas with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

"Our eastern coyotes are kind of becoming their own distinct population, if you will."

What's more, 22 of the 100 coyotes had more than 5 percent wolf ancestry, and 5 had more than 30 percent wolf genes.

Jakubas believes the hybridization occurred when western coyotes began migrating east but took a detour into Canada, where they mated with wolves.

These hybrids now live in Maine, New York, and New Jersey.

Mating between eastern Canadian wolves, red wolves, and coyotes is possible, he said, because they share a common ancestor.

While coyotes help control populations of geese, rodents, and white tail deer, in many parts of the country they're still considered pests.

"For better or worse, most people view coyotes as trouble makers," said Jakubas. "Some of your western states do not even protect them as a wildlife species. They're just considered vermin. You can do anything you want to them."

Coyotes have been hunted and trapped for more than 200 years, and the largest killer is the U.S. government.

Through its Wildlife Services program, the federal government kills hundreds of thousands of coyotes that are deemed a risk to people and livestock (related news: "Coyote-Kill Programs Don't Protect U.S. Farms, Study Finds").

Attacks on humans have been reported in Arizona, California, North Carolina, and Massachusetts.

Last month five people, including two young boys, were reportedly bitten by coyotes in Bellevue, Washington.

But even as coyotes move into more cities and suburbs throughout the country, experts say attacks on humans are fairly rare.

"You're not about to be jogging through [New York's] Central Park and be attacked by a coyote. It's not very likely," John Shivik, a biologist with the National Wildlife Research Center.

"But they are wild animals, and we should respect them as wild animals."