Sunday, September 26, 2010

Five Years to Make a Difference

We're back. The World Cup has come and gone.
Summer was hot. September has all but
disappeared. It's still The International Year of
Biodiversity and we still definitely have work to do.

Here at BU, we had a terrific festival for Sustainability
just over a week ago with all the campus green groups
trying to get their information out. I manned a table for
the Ecolympics and many people came by to claim
our lovely poster, or some pamphlets and pins that
I got from the Secretary of the Convention on
Biological Diversity in Montreal. (The US, along with
Andorra and the Holy See, are the notable countries
who have not ratified the convention.)

Last week, the Director General of the International
Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Julia Marton-
Lefevre, spoke to the UN and warned that we have five years
to make a difference.

Five years!

If we don't significantly slow down the rate
of species loss within five years, our ecosystems will not
recover in our lifetimes and our quality of life will
suffer. It's an incredibly small window for us not only
to educate ourselves but to act.

We are gearing up for another Ecolympics next
spring, which is going to be bigger and better than
this year. We are looking for ideas that will galvanize
people -- people everywhere -- to act positively to
reduce the rate of species loss locally and globally.
We are also looking for organizers to help us plan
a suite of interesting and fun activities to raise
awareness about the importance of biodiversity
so please get in touch if you want to be involved.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Ecolympics Challenge for World Environment Day, June 5, 2010

If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes a civilization to look

after its species. Of course, the species, all thirty to one hundred

million of them, are no more ours than the wind is. But we humans

control the destiny of life on Earth and if we hold to our present course

of action, which includes high consumption of natural resources

leading to habitat destruction and pollution, not to mention climate

change, then by mid-century we’re going to have a much poorer planet: historic numbers of species will become extinct and we humans will have lost a significant part of our heritage and

quality of life.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that we can each do something about it.

But I’m not an activist, you say. Fine, neither am I. At least so


However, you and I both lead active lives and each day we have

opportunities to reduce our footprint on the environment. That’s

why last month my colleague, Alex, and I, together with a

dedicated team of students, organized the Boston University’s

first-ever Ecolympics. We were hoping to get at least one

hundred people to participate in our twenty-three events like

recycling, powering down computers, turning off lights,

taking shorter showers, using re-usable cups, eating less meat,

avoiding plastic, driving less and taking the stairs more.

Our motto was “Competing for Team Earth.”

We finally signed up more than two hundred people. Most of

the participants were from Boston University, but we also had

several people compete from other universities and from

Canada and Germany. The most common comment I got

from the participants was, “I enjoyed the challenge.” I’d

love to say that each of our actions saved a species, but it

doesn’t work that way. We have, however, engaged in the

struggle – against our own habits and attitudes and against

our ignorance.

We are ignorant about the long term consequences of our

present consumption of natural resources though our situation

seems like if in the story about the flood, Noah began

burning the floorboards of the ark to keep warm at night.

There has to be an alternative.

Check out the UNEP’s site for World Environment

Day on June 5, and see that people around the world have made

hundreds of suggestions for things to do to reduce our impact

on the environment and to protect species. The motto for World

Environment Day is “Many species. One Planet. One Future.”

You can also review our Ecolympics events and partake

in one of the events that you missed on your own. Or, if

you’re looking for a real green-medal challenge, here is

something you can do on World Environment Day:

organize your own Ecolympics for your work place or

school. Use our events as a guide. All you need

are a few green prizes as incentives, or a friendly bet

always makes a good challenge.

We need more Ecolympics and more Ecolympians. Next

year, we’re going to run the Ecolympics again, probably

for two weeks instead of one. We’re hoping for at least

double the number of participants: four hundred. But if

we really want to make a difference and get serious about

saving species, then we need four hundred million participants.

We need an Ecolympics that runs year round with everybody

participating every day.

Think about what it will mean for us all to be

Ecolympics champions! Clean air, clean waterways

healthy wetlands, thriving forests and diverse ecosystems.

This is why we need to Compete for Team Earth. This is

our future. The challenge is ours to accept.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Prizes, prizes, prizes!

Starting on Monday of this week, we've been drawing for our
awesome prizes in our various point tiers (above 200 points, 100-200
points and up to 100 points).

Here are the winners and their prizes:

Arianna Rizzo Planet Earth DVD
Abby Cote Yoga mat from
Maryne Shephard $75 gift certificate to Vee Vee in Jamaica Plain
Stephanie Kubala $50 gift cert to Ten Tables in JP
Jennifer Greene $50 gift cert to Ten Tables in JP
Christina Coffey Planet Earth DVD
Jaime Silverstein Yoga mat from
Jessica Vogele Planet Earth DVD
Jasmine Freehoff Museum of Science Double Pass
Stephanie Nelson Ecolympics Tshirt
Megan Peet Museum of Science Double Pass
Hannah Walters Museum of Science Double Pass
Sydney Lindberg $25 Trader Joe's gift card
Quincey Lewinson Yoga mat from
Tait Forman $25 Trader Joe's gift card

Congratulations to all our winners!
We have a few -- stay tuned!


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Photo Contest Winner!

We got some nice photos for our photo contest, from the colors of spring to life in the aquarium. Even in the handful of photos that we got you can see how much biodiversity adds to the simple visual aesthetic of our lives.

The photo that co-judge Alex Coverdill and I decided to go with for our contest winner is shown at left, by Camille Dupaquier.

Look at this old stump of a tree. Is it still living? There's a few twigs here and there that don't seem to have gotten the message that the tree is done for and they're still giving it their best. And in a hollow niche in the center, passing through the eye of the tree, as it were, a squirrel has been momentarily caught. You know that in the next instant the squirrel will be gone, but here it is framed by the tree. On its own, the tree is fascinating and full of character but I find it poignant that the squirrel is caught in the spotlight.
The Tree of Life (Darwin's metaphor for how species are related) is full of niches that different species specialize in. In this International Year of Biodiversity, we should become aware of which niches are disappearing and what we can do to halt it. Thanks for a provocative photo Camille!

Speaking of provocative, here's another image that I've been meaning to post regarding endangered species (click on the image to enlarge it). Apart from the disturbing facts at the bottom (the global population of tigers has fallen 97% in the last century), the figure shows that Ecuador and the USA have the most endangered animal species, with 2211 and 1203, respectively. As the subtitle says, here's a look at some countries with the greatest potential for both disaster and improvement.

Let's hope it's the latter.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Who Are the Ecolympians?

If you were following our Facebook group, you know that we
had more than 200 participants for the Ecolympics!
(210 to be exact!)

We relied on classroom announcements and emailings to
student groups and in under a month we were able to
attract 210 people to modify their behavior and reduce
their impact on the environment for a week. Pretty good!
Thanks for being part of it.

Most of those 210 participants -- most of you -- are
undergraduates here at Boston University but we also
signed up at least two grad students and thirteen faculty!

In addition, we had a strong "Beyond BU" contingent,
represented by participants from Brown University, MIT,
the University of Florida, Centennial High School as
well as five people in Canada and one person in Germany!
Thanks for your support!

We're pleased with our kick-off and we're now waiting
for everyone to submit their points so that we can award
the prizes. (The photo contest judging is occurring as
we speak.)

Alex and I, as co-chairs of the organizing committee
are also wondering how to make the Ecolympics bigger
and better for next year. We'd love to get your feedback.
Tell us about your Ecolympics experience. Tell us
also if you're continuing the Ecolympics spirit.
You can always email us at ecolympics "at"

To be honest, next year we're hoping for ten times
more participants! All it would take would be for
each of us to challenge ten of our friends.
As Michael Pollan writes in the New York Times this
week, it would be like a chain reaction: the more
awareness that is raised, the more people will want
to do it and become involved. Well, that's the hope.

The slogan for the International Year of Biodiversity
is: Biodiversity is life. Biodiversity is our life.

Here at the Ecolympics we've been saying It's
our environment, it's our planet and we're all
competing for Team Earth.

Stay tuned for further posts about the prizes and
additional information about the International
Year of Biodiversity and more!


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Going Vegetarian

Who knew eating Vegetarian could be so easy?

What did you eat for dinner?
Flounder, Squash, and Grilled Potatoes.

Oh cool. Where did you go out to eat?
The Dining Hall.

I am sure you won't be surprised to hear that when I told my friend I had gotten this delicious meal at the Dining Hall she was shocked. In attempt to promote Earth Week, BU's Dining Services has done amazing job of providing fresh and new produce to students. I decided as a part of my Ecolympics challenge to eat Vegetarian for a Week and I am loving it! To be honest, there have been few times where I remember that I am eating Vegetarian because the "veggie" options this week have been so amazing. Will it get harder once Earth Week is over? I am not sure, but I this week has certainly showed me that it is possible.

I just finished reading Jonathan Safran Foer's novel Eating Animals. I highly recommend it! So to make sure that the difference you make during the Ecolympics is not only a week long thing consider reading this book!!


Monday, April 19, 2010

Day 3 Recap

As the English say, I'm chuffed!

We had a dozen people take in the expertise of
GSU Executive Chef for a demo on how to make
Northeast Squash Bisque this afternoon. Chris
made it clear that cooking was all about
experimenting and nothing was locked in. It
was an easy-going class with lots of questions
(including several from moi) and the result
was a colorful, delicious bisque initially
served in shooters and garnished with
a tasty apple confit.

Asked about the challenge of cooking for students, he said that unlike
cooking in restaurants, students come back every day. He stressed
that if students want to talk about the meals they are getting he is
all ears.

This event was coordinated by Mary Farina in our Ecolympics
committee and facilitated by Sabrina Harper in BU's Dining Services,
whose enthusiasm made it happen. Thanks to you both!

Sabrina said Dining Services has events planned all through Earth
Week, so tune in to what they have to offer.

It was a great appetizer for our main Ecolympics event, a screening
of Planet Earth. Three lucky Ecolympians will take home the entire
DVD set of Planet Earth and we had a nice teaser of two episodes
from disc one for an audience of 25, together with vegetarian pizza
from Pizza Pie-er, very capably ordered by my partner in crime,
Alex. (It's a good thing too, because I probably would have forgotten
it was "Meatless Monday" and ordered pepperoni...)

I have to say that I love Planet Earth! I know there are clips on
Youtube but there's nothing like seeing it on a decent sized film
screen, with the amiable narration and storytelling of David
Attenborough (I think the US version has Sigourney Weaver as
narrator). So many of the animal episodes propel you through
the cycles of life: birds courting, panda bears nursing, caribou
running for their lives, elephants staving off thirst. The entire
drama is literally awesome. I could have watched another
complete disc. Maybe next year we'll have a Planet Earth

We also sold a few t-shirts and gave away a bunch of our
posters -- stop by CAS 119 if you'd like either (t-shirts: ten
bucks, posters: gratis). Great to see the interest out there.

We were also asked it we were planning more events for the
week. We didn't want to go crazy with events in our first
Ecolympics so the rest of our events are the self-run events
that you've signed up for on our webpage (yes, you can still
sign up!). And we knew other student groups would
be doing their thing too, so check out the terrific list of events

This week is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Perhaps in
40 more years, we'll all be so environmentally conscious and
living sustainably that we won't need an Ecolympics?
We can hope, right?

Finally, on my way into the veggie cooking demo today, I had
to cross over the path of the Boston Marathon. At 3pm,
hundreds and hundreds of runners were flowing past, some
taking it lightly but some wearing an enormous struggle on
their faces. In my seven years in Boston, this was the first
time I'd come down to see it and I was touched to see all the
emotion. All these people set out to essentially climb their
own Mount Everest and here they were completing it.

Last year, two of my sisters, Sue and Terrie, and several of
my cousins responded to the challenge of my cousin Heather
to walk the Hawaii marathon with her. Heather was on her
third bout with breast cancer and she saw her own treatment
as a marathon, an attitude that inspired everyone around her.
The "Honolulu Hopeful's" were written about in the
Calgary Herald after their race in December. Heather died
of cancer last month, but I was thinking of her and my
sisters who trained with her and supported her and walked an
entire marathon for her and for their own reasons. (They said
they'd never walk another one -- it takes too long! -- though
they didn't rule out running one. ) I'm proud of all of them.

The fight to preserve Earth's biodiversity is a sort
of marathon. Our Ecolympics are like a
training ground... can our small differences add
up to big change? We hope so, but only if we're
in it for the long haul. I am, and I hope you will
be too.

Good luck with your events and let us know how you're doing! Also, stop by our table on Earth Day (Thursday) and say Hi!


Ecolympics Day 3

It's already Day 3 -- I can see the week is going to fly by!

Yesterday I took my re-usable bags to the grocery store.
By the way, have you seen our resources for this event?
Tim Minchin
does a bang-up job in getting the word out!

I got some organic carrots, potatoes and apples, but
the organic broccoli was looking kind of sad so I gave
that a pass. Last week I'd already bought some organic
chicken strips, so I was okay in the meat department.
In the past, I'd cook two for a meal, but because I'm
cutting my meat in half this week (for Meat-Less),
last night I just fried up one. I started cutting my
meat in half about 2 months ago and I have to
say that it's much easier than taking a short shower!
I have the exact same meals that I usually cook,
but with half my usual meat; i.e. I haven't had to
double up on rice or veggies. This has been a surprise
to me as I thought I needed a "full serving" of meat
to feel full.

I still love meat, but I can now see that having some
meals completely meat free is going to be easier than
I thought.

I also signed up for Veggie-mania but beyond the
organics I mentioned, I didn't buy anything I hadn't
bought before, so I'll have to find something on
my next trip.

I guess there's some small race today called
the Boston Marathon. Do any of your events feel
like a marathon? I'd be curious to know!

We're about full for our veggie cooking demo
this afternoon, so I'll see some of you there,
then tonight we're having our screening of
a few episodes of Planet Earth -- with
vegetarian pizza. Hope to see you there!


ps. the baobab above is by Rachel Sussman,
who has a terrific album of the world's oldest
living things -- some awesome, hardy
biodiversity here, check it out!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Let the Ecolympic Games Begin!

And they're off!
Go Ecolympians go!

On such a cold, dreary day, I would have loved a long, hot
shower. But because I signed up for Power Shower, I had
to keep it short. I didn't set any records, but it was
certainly shorter than if I hadn't signed up for
the event. It's funny what a little awareness
will do. Or won't do: I forgot to turn off the
living room lights before going in... but I turned them off
when I got out.

Because I signed up for Unpluggit, I finally unplugged my
printer this morning. I suppose I should be unplugging my
modem overnight...? Hmmm. I also unplugged the coffee
maker after it finished brewing this morning (I poured
the second cup into a thermos). It has a clock and a little
light on it that I don't need and simply drains power. I
started doing that about two months
ago, when the Ecolympics were in the planning stages.

I also signed up for Eat Local and I haven't yet figured out
how to do that. But I'm meeting a friend for dinner tonight
at the Cambridge Brewing Company, which, I just found out,
specializes in local food.

I'm happy to report my three Toothbrush Blitzes
today have each been successful. I'm not sure if I'm
doing another load of laundry this week, but on Tuesday
I did a load in cold water and then dried them overnight
with Nothing But Air. (So, if I signed up for the event but
didn't actually do it during the week, I guess I can't claim
the points? Darn...)

Tomorrow I guess I'm walking to the grocery store with
my re-usable bags for some organics!

How are you doing? If you want a guest blog entry,
send it to me ( and I'll post it. Or just
write on our Facebook wall.

Good luck!

Assignment Earth: Saving Amphibians from Deadly Fungus

Here's a nice piece I just got from the Mother Nature Network:
Building captive colonies for eventual re-introduction to the wild, scientists from Atlanta rescue endangered frogs and other amphibians threatened with extinction by a fatal fungus spreading through South American forests. (Video: see below)

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Edge of Existence

I've been checking up on the Species of the Day recently. A few days ago they featured Darwin's frog, which is an incredible creature for its camouflage talents in either brown or green settings.
Species of the Day also contains a map that shows its habitat and like many of the featured species, Darwin's frog lives in just a single small corner of the world. These maps give you the feeling that Darwin's frog and other Species of the Day, like this primate, the Northern Muriqui,
live on the very edge of existence and the slightest push could extinguish them from the Earth forever.

The Zoological Society of London has taken this "edge of existence" metaphor to single out particularly vulnerable species for conservation.
They've made lists of the top 100 Edge, or "Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered" species in the categories of mammals, amphibians and birds (coming soon). Perusing the lists shows some fascinating species together with a barometer that indicates the extent of any conservation action, if any. On their home page, they have a nice video on coral reefs, an entire system on the edge. The video talks about this year, 2010, as a turning point for us to possibly do something to protect coral reefs worldwide.

So far, about 30 people have signed up for our Species Watch event. I'm looking forward to hearing about all kinds of species that I didn't know existed... Don't forget, you can still add new events, so why not consider adding Species Watch to your list. Peruse the Arkive or the Edge and tell us what you find on our Facebook page. Also thanks to Jennifer for posting a link to endangered species in Massachusetts -- that will make your "species watching" easier.

The Ecolympics start tomorrow! I'm excited! When I left the office we were at 168 participants... with your help, perhaps by the time Monday rolls around, we'll reach 200?!

Also, a special shout out to the ten Core faculty who have signed up -- thanks!

Remember, we are all competing for Team Earth.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Our Poster

How do you like our poster?

It was created by Zak Bos in the Core Office (with suggestions from moi and the other organizers). I think it nicely summarizes what we're about. Many of us take biodiversity for granted without realizing that we depend on it for our food, our health and our leisure.

That's why the main goal of the Ecolympics is to raise awareness of the human impact on the environment and the consequent species loss.

If you'd like a poster, just stop by the Core Office (CAS 119) and we'll give you one, while supplies last.


Things I Am Excited About!

Hey everyone!

With the first EVER Ecolympics rapidly approaching, there is still so much to do and so much to get excited about! So, here is my top 5 list of things related to Ecolympics that I'm pumped about, and also one thing that I'm not looking forward to so much.

1. Buying my T-shirt! Not only is it an eco-friendly T, not only is it tye dye, but it also allows me to put off laundry for another day! And everyone knows that doing laundry is bad for the environment. This is the shirt that keeps on giving!

2. The Meat-less event! I think that this is going to be one of the most difficult for me. Yesterday's menu included, a ham english muffin, pasta toss with sausage, a hamburger, and soupy (which is an Italian cured-sausage like snack. A bit like pepperoni except spicier, homemade, and hung in my basement for months. To be quite honest, I just don't ask what's in it, I don't think I want to know.). Thankfully, the dining hall will be helping to provide me (and everyone else) with meat free meals. While I don't know if I can go the whole week without eating any meat at all, I am certainly going to try to cut my meat consumption to at most once a day.

3. The Biodiversity@BU photo contest! I can't wait to see all the awesome pictures from all around BU. I'm also excited to finally have an excuse to get out and take pictures rather than do homework.

4. Oceans! This is not directly related to Ecolympics however, it is during Earth Week so it gets included. Starting Thursday (Earth Day) the AMC on Tremont St. will be showing Oceans, a Disney production (yes, I may be slightly obsessed with Disney but the obsession has finally come in handy because now I know about Oceans!). Oceans is a Planet Earthlike production that takes us under the sea. The part I am most excited about however, is that a portion of every ticket sold during it's first week in theaters will go to helping our Coral Reefs. Not only can I go see larger than life fish on the big screen, I can go knowing that I am helping the ocean.

5. Raising Awareness! When we had our first Ecolympics meeting, one of our fears was, would anyone actually care? This fear did not subside until our last meeting. Our facebook group has more than 200 members, not only from BU, but from all over the world. Over 100 people have taken the Ecolympics Oath (those of you who haven't signed up for events yet better get a move on!). The amount of people we are reaching is more than I expected, by far. And that is what I am most excited about! The fact that we are raising awareness (through friendly competition) about issues that are important to me and impacting us all.

So now, the one thing I am not excited about this week. Something that will pain me more than Meat-less. TV Free. You all might be saying, if it's going to hurt you that much, don't sign up for it. Valid point. However, I do believe I suggested the event. Therefore, I feel an obligation to go without TV. Should this be hard for me? No, it shouldn't. Can I entertain myself without the TV? Yes, I can go for walks, read the many books piled haphazardly around my dorm, write letters, hang out with my friends in a TV free zone. The options are there. But going TV Free denies me of the reward of the "TV Coma" I fall into after a long day of homework. Will I miss my Grey's Anatomy, my Law and Order SVU, my pointless MTV, and my Celeb Rehab with Dr. Drew? Yes, I will miss them dearly. But, will I come out of this week a new person, enlightened by all of the experiences that I had while doing something instead of sitting stuck to the TV? Probably not but I will still be alive and hopefully, I will have saved a little piece of the planet.

What are you excited most about? What do you think will be the biggest challenge? Post it to our facebook group! We are all in this together!

Ecolympics Love,

PS-I will not be seeing Oceans until Sunday, AFTER TV Free Week is over. Also, I promise not to sit aimlessly in front of my computer for hours on end watching Youtube videos, nor will I attempt to catch up on my TV shows or watch movies on it either. That would be cheating, and Mother Earth will know.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Ecolympics: How it Works

We are just three days away from our Ecolympics kick-off! If you haven't signed up yet, there's still time. If you've signed up and want to add more events, there's still time for that too. Just mark your calendar for 12 noon on April 17 because that's when our events begin, with the exception of Power Shower, which begins at whatever time you get into the shower that day (unless you decide to be extreme and do a quick sponge-wash instead!).

I think it's going to be cool to know each of us our doing our own events on our own time and trying in the process to effect change and ultimately to raise awareness.

When you sign up for the events, you also take our Ecolympics oath and by doing this, you relieve us of the burden of judging your points. You take care of that for us. As the week proceeds, be sure to chat us up on our Facebook group page to let us know of any successes or difficulties you're having. For example, I still don't know how I'm going to "succeed" at Eat Local -- where am I going to get local breakfast cereal? Perhaps some eggs? For lunch, I know I can get Vermont's Cabot Cheese at Stop 'n Shop or Market Basket (for a dollar cheaper than at Whole Foods) but I need gluten-free bread and the stuff I buy comes from non-local California. Too far! For dinner, I don't know where to start just yet... I'll have to check our resources.

So, though the Ecolympics are self-run events, we hope you'll chat us up on our Facebook page or by commenting on our blog posts. We've had all kinds of water cooler talk about the Ecolympics in the Core Office and we'd love to recreate that online. Please also check the
resources for each of the event pages and be sure to send us links for anything that will
help us get better information out!

When the week is over, you'll log back into our site and tally your accomplishments. How often did you do what you set out to do? We have two options for most of our events so just check whichever one is appropriate. Do that for each of your events and we'll tally your final points.
We can't wait to hear about your success!

Your final points will fall into a particular tier (1, 2, 3 or 4) and we'll draw winners randomly from each tier. So, stay tuned to this blog for updates.

We've lined up some cool prizes: gift certificates to restaurants that serve local food, like Garden at the Cellar and Ten Tables, double passes for the Museum of Science, eco-friendly yoga mats (from our generous sponsor, Trader Joe's gift bags (food!), and last, but certainly not least, Planet Earth DVDs. At least a dozen Ecolympians will be taking a prize home!

(If you're beyond BU we still want you! We suggest you challenge a friend and create your own prize.)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Introducing the Arkive

We're going to have some posts about what we're doing and you're doing for the Ecolympics soon, but I wanted to let you know about the Arkive, which is mentioned in the Resources for our Tell-A-Friend event. You should just go to the Arkive and explore or you can view the terrific promo featuring David Attenborough. It aims to be an image and video database of all the world's endangered species.

At left is the Fony Baobab, found only in Madagascar, where it is suffering from habitat loss. It was an IUCN Species of the Day earlier this month. Go to the Arkive and click on the image and you can see a nice slideshow of this exotic tree.

This little critter is called Burrowe's Giant Glass Frog, which doesn't look so giant to me. The Arkive doesn't have conservation status for it, so presumably they are waiting for an expert to fill in the details.

Another recent IUCN Species of the Day was the Humphead Wrasse, one of the largest reef fishes in the world. The Arkive has a nice collection of images and videos of this beauty, which is suffering from exploitation in the live reef-fish trade.
As you can see, the Arkive contains some top nature photography and as a website and archive, it has some other cool features like slideshows and creating your own scrapbook. All for free. Worth checking out!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ashes and Snow

Has anyone seen this exhibit by Toronto artist Gregory Colbert? Apparently some ten million people have seen it, making it the most-viewed exhibit by a living artist in history. I didn't know anything about it until I stumbled on a Youtube clip last week and the images have stayed with me, particularly of the orangutan and the woman in the boat. I wish I could see the whole film! The website for the installation has some lovely black and white images of harmonious interactions between our species and others. As described in the clip, it truly is a celebration of nature.

I found it when I was looking for information about palm oil, which is even more ubiquitous than high fructose corn syrup as it is in 50% of all consumer goods, from breakfast cereal to snack bars and chocolate bars, and from soap and cosmetics to biofuels. According to the Rainforest Action Network, demand for palm oil has tripled in the US in the last five years, making this crop one of the key causes in global rainforest destruction. Particularly hard-hit are the rainforests of Indonesia, where one of the last remaining populations of orangutans lives (the other population lives in Borneo). You can watch the last days of the orangutan, Green, in the 48-minute film by
Patrick Rouxel now being screened in documentary festivals. Patrick has also put the entire film
online. I see that Patrick also has a Facebook group with more than 2000 fans.

Here's the bad news on orangutan numbers in the 20th century from Patrick's website for the film: a decline from more than 300,000 to less than 10,000. The Honolulu Zoo has more information about orangutans.

This is why one of our events at the Ecolympics
is "Tell-A-Friend", which so far as many as one third of our participants have signed up for. We hope you'll consider signing up for it and sharing the information you find with us on our Facebook group.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Welcome to the Ecolympics Blog!

Greetings fellow Ecolympians! If you've seen our FAQ you know what we're about. Here's a brief summary: this is the UN's International Year of Biodiversity, which, as they say here, "is a celebration of life on earth and of the value of biodiversity for our lives. The world is invited to take action in 2010 to safeguard the variety of life on earth: biodiversity".

“Biodiversity” refers to the diversity of plant and animal life in an ecosystem or in the world as a whole. Unfortunately, Earth’s biodiversity is now suffering losses at accelerating and historic rates due primarily to human activities. These activities include pollution, habitat loss and introduction of invasive species and the loss will be exacerbated by climate change.

So, the Ecolympics are designed as a series of fun, self-run events to help us all become aware of the human impact on our environment. They are sponsored by the College of Arts and Science's Core Curriculum here at Boston University. But anyone can participate. Our prizes are limited to present Boston University people, but we hope that wherever you are in the world, you'll sign-up and participate. In fact, we hope any participant anywhere will take our oath (at the bottom of the sign-up page) to heart and challenge friends to participate, creating their own prizes in the process.

Biodiversity loss is a global problem that, simply put, can only be bad news for humans. Scientists have catalogued some 1.5 million species and don't know how many more there are. So we are losing species before we can count them, let alone study them. By each of us exploring the repercussions of how we live our lives, how we use energy and water, how we eat and how we spend our dollars we can hopefully start reducing biodiversity loss.

Check out our resources. Send us links. Write on our Facebook wall with your thoughts, links and photos. Advertise us. It's our planet, our environment and these are our species. (Recently I saw a video that mentioned if aliens invaded and started taking or killing our species, we'd definitely fight back. Now is our chance.)

Here's a quote from E.O. Wilson's Pulitzer prizewinning book, The Diversity of Life: "[A] panda or a sequoia represents a magnitude of evolution that comes along only rarely. It takes a stroke of luck and a long period of probing, experimentation and failure. Such a creation is part of deep history and the planet does not have the means nor we the time to see it repeated."

In just under two weeks, we're going to announce, "Let the Games begin!" If you're at BU, sign-up by April 9 to qualify to win a copy of The Omnivore's Dilemma. If you're beyond-BU, sign-up anyway to help us generate some buzz.

We value your participation and are excited you want to be a part of these Ecolympics.