Bird-friendly coffee? What’s that?

I never even heard of bird-friendly coffee before, and my first thought was that must be what those early-morning noise makers in the trees around my house must be drinking. But no! GrrlScientist explains it all.

“Over recent decades, most of the shade coffee in Latin America has been converted to intensively managed row monocultures devoid of trees or other vegetation,” Amanda Rodewald, a co-author of the study who is the Garvin Professor and senior director of the Center for Avian Population Studies at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, said in a statement. “As a result, many birds cannot find suitable habitats and are left with poor prospects of surviving migration and successfully breeding.”

Today, most coffee sold is sun-grown under little or no shade because sun makes coffee bushes grow faster and produce more coffee. This loss of tropical forest biodiversity to a row monoculture harms resident rainforest birds along with their migratory cousins so they all are disappearing along with their rainforest homes. This simple connection between habitat loss, pesticides and fertilizer pollution to intensive coffee farming methods was the impetus for Smithsonian conservation scientists to create the strictest agricultural certification criteria for coffee: their Bird-Friendly certification requires that coffee is organic and that it meets strict requirements for both mature canopy cover and the type of forest in which the coffee is grown. Bird-Friendly coffees are guaranteed to support bird habitat, in addition to fair and stable prices for coffee producers, healthy environments for local communities, and equal access to markets for Bird-Friendly coffee producers.

Uh-oh. When the birder in our house finds out, this is going to be the only kind of coffee we will be allowed to purchase.

(By the way, GrrlScientist visited us here in Morris several years ago, before Mary was bitten by the birding bug. The two of them would have even more to talk about today.)

That’s one evil enchantment

Oh, hey, I remember the Enchanted Forest in Salem, Oregon! We used to drive by it on I-5 all the time, and we’d gawk and think about taking our oldest child there sometime, back when he was a toddler. That was the early ’80s, before we left lovely Eugene.

It doesn’t look so enticing now. Now it’s the Enchanted Forest from Hell…

On second thought, that might appeal to Alaric even more today.

I’m so sorry, California, Oregon, and Washington. I hear everything is on fire nowadays. Let the rains come soon.

Carbon neutrality FTW!

The University of Minnesota Morris already has 100% of its electricity generated from renewable sources, but as this article explains, we’re also trying to kick the natural gas heating dependency. UMM gets a lot of attention here.

In Morris, the university, the city, and a local health campus have created a “Morris Model” that could result in a shared district energy system and other shared projects. The model sets goals of having 80% of energy in the county to come from local sources combined with a 30% reduction in energy consumption by 2030, said Bryan Herrmann, vice chancellor for finance and facilities.

Morris uses half the power from its wind projects to power the school and then offsets the rest of fossil fuel energy consumption through purchasing renewable energy credits generated by the turbines. It is a complex arrangement configured with assistance from donors and Otter Tail Power, Herrmann said.

The campus now must contend with finding money to retrofit buildings and to move them to low-temperature hot water heating. Goodnough, the sustainability director, wants whatever solution the campus chooses to benefit the local community, including farmers and perhaps other towns in the region. “There are some changes that we’re going to have to make to get us to the future where we’ll want to be,” he said.

Yay, UMM! We’re doing what everyone ought to be doing.

Let the wildflowers bloom

We’re about to waste our morning on a long trek north to get groceries, thanks to our local grocery store being a filthy pestilential breeding ground for disease, so I’m going to be gone for a few hours. I’ll leave you with a few views of the strip of native plants growing outside our sun room window, which Mary calls the Father’s Day Garden, because she planted it for me last year. It’s doing well!

It looks so good that I think we should dig up the whole lawn and let it flourish like this. Lawn mowers are the tools of the devil, you know.

I guess we’re in the midst of tornado season

June and July are the peak months for tornadoes in the upper midwest, and June was a bit of a bust, so I guess we can expect July to compensate. One ripped through Dalton the other day, which is less than an hour north of us.

Yikes. To put it in perspective, though, in the 20 years I’ve been here, I haven’t seen one, although they have come close, and I’ve seen the sky turn greenish.

I rather like the woman in the video who tells the yammering guy to STFU, at least.

How about some happy news?

The University of Minnesota Morris has achieved carbon neutrality!

This year the University of Minnesota Morris achieved a new milestone in its journey toward complete campus carbon neutrality. The campus is now fully carbon neutral in electricity because of on-site clean energy systems.

Over the past decade UMN Morris has built an on-site, community-scale, clean energy platform. In 2019 Environment America recognized that UMN Morris produced the most on-site electricity per student in the United States. The majority of campus power, about 60%, is generated by two University of Minnesota-owned 1.65 megawatt wind turbines. Additional green electricity is generated by several solar photovoltaic systems and a back-pressure steam-turbine at the biomass gasification plant.

I’ve noticed the solar panels sprouting up around campus, so it’s good to see they’ve made significant progress in making our university a bit more green.

Never underestimate insects

Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia are being hit hard by massive clouds of locusts — would you believe a mass of insects 37 x 25 miles in area sweeping across East Africa? And that’s only one of multiple swarms.

Also troubling — this is a side-effect of climate change.

The swarms are reaching such an unusual size now because of cyclones that rained on the deserts of Oman last year, the FAO’s senior locust forecasting officer Keith Cressman tells Reuters’ Nita Bhalla.

“We know that cyclones are the originators of swarms – and in the past 10 years, there’s been an increase in the frequency of cyclones in the Indian Ocean,” Cressman tells Reuters. Eight cyclones occurred in 2019.

“Normally there’s none, or maybe one. So this is very unusual,” Cressman says. “It’s difficult to attribute to climate change directly, but if this trend of increased frequency of cyclones in Indian Ocean continues, then certainly that’s going to translate to an increase in locust swarms in the Horn of Africa.”

I used to raise Schistocerca, and they are amazingly, scarily prolific when given good conditions, which is what these cyclones are providing.

They’re going to need a lot of spiders — big spiders. Locusts are impressively large and well-armored.

Homero Gómez is dead

Gómez was a hero who fought to educate people and protect the Monarch butterfly in his native Mexico, and now his body has been found thrown down a well.

This is a tragic loss. It’s still under investigation, but he was probably murdered by local gangs.

Rights groups had earlier said they feared that Gómez might have been targeted because of his fight against illegal logging, one of the activities that criminal gangs in the area are involved in.

Gómez was last seen in person attending a meeting in the village of El Soldado on the afternoon of 13 January, and his family reported him missing the next day. Relatives told local media the conservationist had received threats from an organised crime gang.

Fighting to preserve natural habitat is a dangerous cause.