The National Wildlife magazine recently looked at the enormous toll that free-ranging domesticated cats take on wildlife in the United States. The latest study has conservatively concluded that between 1.3–4.0 billion birds and 6.3–22.3 billion mammals are killed annually by cats, making them one of the largest human-influenced sources of mortality for birds and mammals in the country.
When domesticated cats prey on wild birds and other wildlife they are simply following their natural instinct. Ecologically, however, the effect of that predation is anything but natural and has even resulted in the wildlife extinctions. One thing we can all do to help solve this problem is to keep our pet cats indoors. Not only is this better for wildlife, it’s also better for our cats. Outdoor cats face threats from predators, cars and disease and as a result, have much shorter lifespans compared to indoor cats.
Here are our tips for keeping your indoor cat happy and healthy.
Keep Your Cat Active. It’s all too easy for an indoor cat to go stir crazy if it can’t work out that excess energy. The good news is there’s no shortage of awesome cat toys that will keep your cat moving. There are toys that look like mice, toys with feathers, battery-powered toys with flashing light and sound, laser pointers, toys that move, toys on strings–everything that you need to help keep your cat pouncing and stalking safely indoors.
Set up a Bird Viewing Station. Even well-fed pet cats still retain the wildcat’s natural attraction to small animals. You can indulge that attraction by setting up a bird viewing station inside. Simply install a cat window perch and put up a bird feeder or bath right outside the window. Your pet cat will have hours of viewing pleasure and the wildlife will be safe.
Let Your Cat Go "Hunting". In addition to toys, you can help your cat exercise its natural hunting instinct by hiding its favorite treats around the house. Freeze treats in ice cubes or use special cat treat puzzles and toys that make your cat work to extract its reward to offer hours of mental stimulation. These are the same enrichment tactics used to keep lions, tigers and other predators in good mental and physical condition in zoos.
Pets in Pairs. Few of us can be home all day to love on our cats, so consider getting a second cat as a companion. Having a buddy to run and play with can go a long way in keeping indoor cats happy and stimulated. There’s no shortage of homeless cats at your local shelter just waiting for someone to take them home.
Use Catnip. When cats rub on or chew catnip, it produces a mild natural high that is both harmless and temporary, but that is pleasurable to cats. Not all cats are affected by catnip, and it has no effect on kittens under six months of age, but if your cat does respond to it, it can be one more tool to help keep your indoor cat stimulated and happy.
Stop Door Dashing. Watch this segment on NatGeo WILD’s Pet Talk for tips on how to keep your cats from dashing out the door.
Let Your Cat Climb. Cat trees are a tried and true way of allowing your cat to exercise its urge to climb, and they come in all shapes and sizes to fit your space and decor. If you’re handy, you can even build your own.
Go for a Walk. Believe it or not it is possible to train your cat to walk on a leash. It’s easiest to start training your cat when it’s just a kitten, but even older cats can learn. Start by getting your cat used to wearing a harness for short periods of time indoors, then move on to attaching the leash and rewarding the cat with treats when it walks with you. Never pull on the leash. Once the cat is comfortable with the harness and leash, it’s time to try it outside. Start slowly, with just short trips outside and gradually increase the length of the walks as your cat gets more comfortable. If it’s too much of a challenge, work with a professional animal trainer. Remember, the idea of walking dogs on leashes once seemed weird, but now it’s the standard. We can do the same with cats.
Build a Catio. Another way to give your kitty some fresh air is to install a “catio.” A catio is an enclosed structure that you can install in your yard or on your deck or patio to give your cat some time outside without having to put it on a leash or putting wildlife in danger (or your cat in danger from wildlife).
Spay and Neuter. Always spay and neuter your pet cats. Intact cats can be driven by hormones to try to escape outside to try to find a mate. By spaying and neutering, you eliminate this added stress on your pet cat while at the same time minimizing the allure of the outdoors and eliminating any chance that it could contribute to the unwanted cat population.
Love Your Cat. Unlike their wild ancestors, domesticated cats crave human attention. Often the most effective way of keeping your indoor cat happy is to just pay attention to it. Snuggle your cat, pet your cat, and play with your cat every day. You’ll be surprised at how far a little attention from its human can go in ensuring your indoor cat’s wellbeing.
Mars, Incorporated, the world’s largest candymaker, made headlines in September with their $1 billion pledge to fight climate change. The money will go to renewable energy for their supply chain, projects that fight deforestation, support for small-scale farmers, and more efficient farming and shipping, among other big investments.
In the corporate sector, Mars is one of the major leaders on this climate change, and EarthShare member nonprofits have been there from the beginning to advance their sustainability goals.
Mars was already thinking about sustainability in the late 1990s when it began working with the Rainforest Alliance to figure out how to support small farmers and the tropical forests its ingredients are grown in. In 2009, management announced their entire cocoa supply would be Rainforest Alliance certified by 2020.
Mars also realized climate change was putting its business at risk. Growing regions have gotten hotter and drier, making it harder to grow ingredients like cocoa, peanuts, and coffee. So Mars decided to power their operations with 100% renewable energy, and join the Ceres BICEP Network, a group of businesses that advocate for stronger climate and energy policies.
Mars also worked with experts at another EarthShare member, World Resources Institute (WRI), to analyze their carbon footprint and develop sustainability targets. These targets take into account the latest science on the global carbon budget, water stress and other ecological limits. “We take our responsibility for our products and the supply chain behind them seriously,” said Kevin Rabinovitch, global sustainability director at Mars. “For us that means understanding the science not only behind those impacts, but behind the limits we must all learn to operate within.”
More and more American companies are following Mars’ lead, knowing that climate action is good for the economy and planet.
If you want your company to take strong action, download the Power Forward 3.0 report to learn how companies are increasing their clean energy efforts while improving their bottom lines. And If you’re a corporate sustainability professional, contact JP Leous at WRI to learn how their experts can assist companies with science-based environmental target setting.
The Wilderness Society commends Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Congressman Salud Carbajal (D-CA 24) for their courage and foresight in seeking protections for wildlands stretching across California’s rugged and scenic Central Coast.
Monday, September 11, 2017 | By EarthShare | No Comments
After Harvey and Irma, 10 Facts about Floods
By John Cain, Director of Conservation for California Flood Management at American Rivers
As the people of Houston, Florida and the Caribbean struggle to recover from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, people should consider contributing to recovery efforts and preparing for a flood in their own communities. American Rivers offers a few facts about floods to help communities prepare.
* Floods are the most common natural hazards in the United States. In terms of number of lives lost and property damage, flooding is the most common natural hazard. Floods can occur at any time of the year, in any part of the country, and at any time of the day or night. While heavy precipitation is the common cause of flooding, hurricanes, winter storms, and snowmelt are common, but often overlooked, causes of flooding.
* Floodplains provide roughly 25% of all land-based ecosystem service benefits yet they represent just 2% of Earth’s land surface. Floodplains are the low lying areas that surround rivers and other water bodies that naturally flood on a frequent basis. Natural, frequent flooding makes floodplains the “lifeblood” to surrounding areas. They provide clean water and wildlife habitat among many other benefits including one of the most visible functions, the ability to store large volumes of flood water and slowly release these waters over time.
* Wetlands in the US save more than $30 billion in annual flood damage repair costs. Wetlands act as natural sponges, storing and slowly releasing floodwaters after peak flood flows have passed. A single acre of wetland, saturated to a depth of one foot, will retain 330,000 gallons of water – enough to flood thirteen average-sized homes thigh-deep
* Over the past century, we have experienced more intense and frequent storms. Over the last 50 years, Americans have seen a 20% increase in the heaviest downpours. With a changing climate, we know that the size of the nation’s floodplains will grow by 40 to 45% over the next 90 years, putting more people in harm’s way.
* In 2011 alone, there were 58 federal flood disaster declarations, covering 33 different states. The 2011 flooding damages cost over $8 billion, caused 113 deaths, and exceeded the 30–year averages.
* The federal government provides flood insurance to homeowners, but the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is $25 billion in debt to federal taxpayers because premiums are not keeping pace with the increasing risk of floods. Claims have increased significantly over the last 15 years due in large part to Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma will certainly increase the overall NFIP debt. Most homeowners at risk of flooding don’t have flood insurance and are thus at the mercy of disaster assistance, which costs taxpayers billions of dollars per year in addition to claims paid by the NFIP.
* Roughly 17% of all the urban land in the United States is located in the “100-year” or high risk flood zone. If you live in a high-risk area and you have a federally backed mortgage, you must buy flood insurance. Flood insurance costs vary, but the average cost is $550 per year. If your community participates in FEMA’s voluntary Community Rating System (CRS), you can save up to 45% on your insurance premium. If you live near the 100-year floodplain, you should seriously consider purchasing flood insurance.
* Over the course of a 30-year mortgage, homeowners in the 100-year floodplain have a 1 in 4 chance or greater of being flooded – twice the probability of fire damage. Floods are not limited to the 100-year floodplain and 100-year floods can happen more frequently than once every century. Over 20% of the flood insurance claims and one-third of all flood disaster assistance is for flood damage outside the 100-year floodplain. The concept of a 100-year flood is a statistical projection that refers to the flood event that has a 1 percent probability of occurring in each and every year. As the climate changes, the size and area subject to the 100-year flood will increase.
* Flood mitigation practices that reduce the loss of life and damages to properties provide $5 in benefits for every dollar invested. When homeowners and communities take steps to protect themselves and to reduce the impacts of flooding through mitigation practices such as elevating or flood-proofing their homes, moving flood prone structures out of harm’s way, and investing in “natural defenses” they can save themselves and taxpayer’s money because it’s less expensive to prepare for a flood than it is to keep cleaning up afterwards. * Levees can and do fail, often with catastrophic consequences. An estimated 100,000 miles of levees crisscross the nation. There is no definitive record on the exact number or the condition of those levees. We do know that over 40% of the US population lives in counties with levees and that many of these levees were designed decades ago for agricultural purposes but now have homes and businesses behind them. Setting back levees to give rivers more room to safely carry flood waters is often the best way to protect communities from catastrophic floods. Giving rivers more room provides other benefits such as clean water, parks, and wildlife habitat.
If our current administration’s head-in-the-sand approach to climate change leaves you with a sinking feeling, I’ve got just the book to buoy you: Paul Hawken’s Drawdown.
Drawdown leapt onto the New York Times top ten bestseller list in its first week of release, validating Hawken’s belief that a positive approach to this potentially overwhelming crisis is the best way to address it. He characterizes global warming not “as an inevitability, but as an invitation to build, innovate, and effect change.”
The Project Drawdown campaign invites you to join a global community of visionary individuals who’ve got an astonishing range of ideas on how we can tackle our climate crisis, no matter where we live or who governs us.
Even if you just leaf (or scroll) casually through the list of amazing breakthroughs that Hawken and his Drawdown colleagues have so painstakingly compiled and ranked according to their potential effectiveness, you can’t help being inspired and encouraged by all these ‘silver bbs.’ It makes for a surprisingly fun and fascinating read.
Lego (yes, the toy company) is doing wind power in Liverpool. The French have invented photovoltaic pavement. More universal solutions we can all adopt include limiting food waste and embracing a plant-based diet, which Drawdown ranks as the 3rd and 4th most powerful strategies to reduce our emissions. Drawdown provides an extensive list of agriculture-related climate change solutions being developed or already in use all over the world that we can encourage through our food choices.
One of the most unexpected conclusions of the Drawdown researchers was that the empowerment of women and girls through family planning and education rank as the 6th and 7th most effective solutions.
Why is this? In developing nations in particular, women are the “stewards & managers of food, soil, trees, and water.” How we utilize these resources plays an integral role in determining whether we are contributing to, or reducing, our carbon footprint. As Drawdown notes, “the barriers are real, but so are the solutions.”
Hawken thinks framing these challenges as a battle does nothing to engage people who aren’t already on board, and it may even alienate potential allies. How do we enlist people of all political stripes to move us forward?
Drawdown points out that the Latin root of “conserve” means “to keep together.” A true conservative, then, would want to keep the planet we all share from being torn apart by greed, ignorance or fear. Or rendered uninhabitable, as it may be in a few generations if we don’t take action now.
In the book’s introduction, Tom Steyer, the philanthropist and founder of NextGen Climate, describes Project Drawdown as “a road map with a moral compass.” It’s hard to know where this country is headed, but I’d love to see Drawdown steer millions more of us onto Hawken’s hopeful highway. Traffic jam? Bring it on! We could get out of our cars and dance, a la La La Land. Doesn’t that beat feeling defeated?
Wednesday, August 2, 2017 | By EarthShare | No Comments
Fight Energy Waste from Your Phone
Have you noticed stores that keep their doors open while running the air conditioning on hot summer days? Has this bothered you? Now you can do something about it!
Join Keep It Cool, a national campaign mobilizing consumers to help convince retailers to close their doors and stop wasting energy.
Participating is easy. All you have to do is spot front doors on shops, and use Facebook Messenger to drop a pin on a national map that tracks all of the stores identified with doors open or closed.
The campaign organizers will recognize shops that “Keep It Cool” with closed doors and reach out to educate retailers who allow energy to escape through their open doors.
“Our Keep it Cool campaign empowers consumers to anonymously have an impact on wasteful behaviors in their own neighborhoods. And it gives retailers the opportunity to do the right thing and showcase their green values. This is good for business, the community and the environment,” said Nate McFarland, director of communications atGeneration 180, the nonprofit organizer of the campaign committed to advancing a cultural shift in energy awareness and clean energy adoption.
Retailers that run the air conditioning during hot summer months and open their doors to attract customers drive up costs, waste energy and increase pollution. Just the simple act of closing doors can reduce pollution significantly.
On average, each store with a door open wastes about 4,200 kWh of electricity over the summer. Generating this much electricity releases about 2.2 tons of carbon dioxide – the same amount of pollution emitted by a diesel semi-truck driving from New York to Miami.
The success of Keep It Cool depends on you participating and sharing activities with your friends and social networks. Everyone who cares about the environment can join in the effort this summer to help make your community cleaner and smarter.