Matthew’s Musings: May-June, 2013
By Matthew Schaut, MRVAC President
I am fond of winter and, as I write in early April, am actually sorry to lose the comforting blanket of snow. I’d hoped to be wrapped in a warm glow of knowing the XL pipeline would not be built, but our political leaders have really managed to draw out the suspense. Hard to believe we still don’t know if they’ll do the right thing. Where’s the leadership?
One reason I may like winter is that it does tend to entail a modicum of physical discomfort. Nothing like what the natural world is adapted to survive, or what our ancestors routinely found ways to cope with. I’m sure we could, too. Wouldn’t it be worth it to be cold for a winter while we all worked together to install solar, geothermal, and wind on our neighbor’s dwellings? Would we all die if the heat was turned off for a short while to retool our energy system? Do we really believe things have to be like they are RIGHT NOW – 24-hour computer connectivity, entertainment on demand, never using any less energy than we are AT THIS MOMENT? Those are the assumptions I always hear when pundits talk about switching to renewable energy sources. Even the sources I respect with all my heart, like the Union of Concerned Scientists, are offering strategies to reduce fossil fuel use by 50% in 20 years. Do we really have 20 years? Or does it just not matter anymore – we just write off the planet’s biodiversity? Ecocide is happening right now. As we lollygag, species are going extinct and habitats are disappearing. In the time it takes to read this sentence, the climate has changed. None of this is reversible, and despite our hubris, we have no ability to engineer a “solution” to any planetary process.
But why do I complain? Spring is coming, lakes are thawing, and there are reports of people seeing 18 species of ducks in one day! If you are lucky, the thaw will pause right at your favorite pond for a week or two. When it happens, it is such a pleasure. Then we can plant our gardens, and fill them with food for our native pollinators and any honeybees lucky enough to still be alive. What a time they are having, probably due to the ever increasing cocktail of pesticides being used in industrial agriculture. The American Bird Conservancy is pretty sure these pesticides are killing grassland birds as well.
Until I heard Mike Goblirsk, University of Minnesota graduate student at the U of MN bee lab, give his talk March 28, 2013, at the Minnesota River Valley Wildlife Refuge headquarters, I thought I had a healthy appreciation for honeybees. But listen to this: For every pound of honey, bees made 2,000,000 visits to flowers, representing 55,000 flight miles. Each forager makes 1/12 teaspoon of honey in her lifetime, visits 50-100 flowers per foraging trip, and forages within a 2-3 mile range. These bees do an amazing amount of work, and we expect to have our honey whenever we want it. THAT’S hubris! It’s also downright disrespectful.
I never really get enough of bees. We have an amazing resource here in Minnesota in the U of MN bee lab, run by Marla Spivak. Check out the Minnesota Honeybee Survey Facebook page to keep in touch. They want us to learn to identify native honeybees and help census them.
That’s on top of the owls, and the frogs that many of us already census, of course. And let’s not forget the birds! National Audubon has just announced a hummingbird citizen science initiative.
The Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas is in its last year and there is a lot of territory yet to cover. MRVAC’s esteemed Vice-President, Steve Weston, says he needs all our help, at whatever level our birding skills may be, to get this job done. Join in. It’ll put spring into your step!
Elect Board Members for 2013-2014
Please join us at the Thursday May 23 meeting to vote on the slate of candidates for the board of directors. We have one open position – can you join the board?
- President: Matthew Schaut
- President Elect: Greg Burnes
- Vice President: Steve Weston
- Treasurer: Bob Williams,
- Secretary: Molly Eichten,
- Members at Large: Becky Lystig, Ken Oulman, Patti Larson
- One open at-large position.
Executive Director appointed for Audubon Minnesota
Matthew Anderson is the new Executive Director of Audubon Minnesota. Read more.
Breeding Bird Atlas ending soon. Contribute today!
Help write the book on Minnesota’s breeding birds. Learn more!
Minnesota Valley Trust completes mitigation plan
The Minnesota Valley Trust was created in August 2000 to mitigate the impact on the Refuge and its visitors of the new north-south runway at the International Airport. Read about their success! Learn more.
Support your local pollinators!
Bees and other pollinators need all the help they can get. Here’s how you can help: More.
Elementary Classrooms Eligible for Free “Audubon Adventures”
For many years, MRVAC has provided “Audubon Adventure” materials to elementary school classrooms in our area. Money raised at the Birdathon and fall auction is used to purchase these kits. Read more.
Treats Needed for Upcoming Meetings
If you can bring a few dozen cookies, bars or some easy-to-eat snack to share at the September or October meeting, please call Jan at 952-858-8604.
Fire Codes Affect Seating in Refuge Visitor Center Auditorium
At upcoming MRVAC meetings (the 4th Thursday of the month, during the school year) you may be asked to fill up empty seats or move in towards the center to allow others to sit down in the auditorium. We cannot bring in extra chairs and sit in the back when the room starts to get crowded, due to fire regulations.
Please help us comply with the rules and allow us to continue meeting at the Visitor Center by switching seats if necessary and by not carrying chairs into the auditorium. Thanks.