Thursday, July 28, 2011

British kids build greenhouse out of plastic bottles

If climate change is to be prevented and environmental consciousness is to prevail, then our children must be well educated in sustainability-focused initiatives. With that in mind, the school children at Mill Lane School in Chinnor, Oxfordshire collected 1,500 plastic bottles over the past 18 months in order to construct a greenhouse.

Thanks to inhabitat

Kathy Dowsett

Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, July 25, 2011

How To Prevent Swimmer’s Ear

Nothing refreshes on a scorching hot summer day quite like a plunge into a swimming pool or one of the glistening lakes that dot the Canadian landscape.

The down side for some people is that a head-dunking and water-filled ears could set them up for the irritating and painful condition known as swimmer’s ear.

A recent report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention found that one in 123 Americans went to the doctor in 2007 with swimmer’s ear.

Because the outdoor swimming season is shorter in Canada, the prevalence is perhaps lower here for this form of earache formally known as otitis externa, characterized by an inflammation of the outer ear and ear canal.

“It’s called swimmer’s ear just because it tends to be quite common in the summer months in particular when kids usually do a lot of swimming,” said Dr. Moshe Ipp, a pediatrician at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.

“When you’re in the water for hours on end you wash away the sort of oily wax bits in the ear, and then water sits in that external canal because kids don’t dry their ear, and you have the sort of change in the acidity — it becomes a little bit more neutral alkaline, and bacteria can then get in.”

By contrast, the childhood ear infections that we more commonly hear about affect the middle ear — closer to the ear drum.

Michele Hlavsa, chief of the CDC’s healthy swimming program, said swimmer’s ear is often caused by a bacteria called pseudomonas, or by staph.

Water can wear down the ear wax and skin in the outer ear canal, she said in a phone interview from Atlanta.

“Our ear wax actually has an antimicrobial property to it, so it helps us fight infections, but when we have water sitting in our ears, bacteria can grow in the ear and then cause infections.”

Those affected might have itchiness inside the ear, redness or swelling of the ear, she said.

“You can have pain when you tug on the ear — that’s the real hallmark of swimmer’s ear. If you tug on your earlobe, it causes an intense pain, and also sometimes people with swimmer’s ear have pus that drains out of the ear.”

Ipp said water is one of the main causes, but other factors could include the use of cotton swabs which can injure the lining of the ear canal and set the scene for an otitis externa.

“Various chemicals could probably do that as well, such as hair shampoo, or whatever. Anything that disturbs that environment will give you an external ear infection.”

Bathing caps, shower caps or ear plugs will stop water from getting into the ear canal for those who are susceptible to the condition.

Otherwise, in terms of prevention, both Hlavsa and Ipp said that drying the ears with a towel is important — but never, ever use cotton swabs.

Hlavsa said a hair dryer can help.

“We recommend putting the hair dryer on the lowest heat setting and lowest speed setting for the fans, and holding it several inches from the ear,” she said. “Because the point is really just to circulate air within the ear canal, it’s not to evaporate the water. It’s more to ventilate the ear.”

She’s heard reports of people hitting their heads against things to encourage water to drain, but doesn’t suggest this head-banging approach.

“We recommend tilting the head down so each ear faces the ground, and pulling on the earlobe to help kind of drain the water out,” she said.

Ipp said special over-the-counter ear drops are available at pharmacies for those who are prone to swimmer’s ear.

“After the kids have been swimming the whole day, you just put a few drops in each ear, and what it does is it restores the normal pH into the external canal, and prevents any bacteria or fungi for that matter from establishing themselves. It’s an antiseptic.”

A homemade solution that some people suggest is a 50-50 mixture of vinegar and rubbing alcohol, he said, adding that a couple drops in each ear after swimming will restore the normal pH, and the alcohol dries out the ear canal a bit.


The CDC cautions that these preventative drops should not be used by people with ear tubes, damaged ear drums, outer ear infections or pus or liquid coming from the ear.

If someone does get an infection, a doctor needs to make a diagnosis and would normally prescribe antibiotic ear drops, Ipp said.

“Sometimes they need an oral antibiotic as well, not always, but if it’s so inflamed or so clogged up in the ear canal that you can’t get the drops in, you need to give them an antibiotic by mouth.”

Relief should come within a few days, but if it doesn’t the patient would need to be seen again. A visit to an ear, nose and throat specialist might be required — especially if the ear canal is jammed full of pus and debris from the infection.

The specialist might have to put an ear wick into the ear. It’s like a little bit of gauze with ear drops on the end of the gauze, Ipp explained.

The CDC report found about 2.4 million doctor visits per year for swimmer’s ear. Rates of doctor visits were highest in children aged five to 14.

“For our health-care system, it’s only like $200 a pop, but when you’re talking about 2.4 million cases, you’re talking about a pretty expensive condition,” the CDC’s Hlavsa said.

She has recommended to American swimmers that they buy test strips and check pH levels before they get into a pool because proper levels mean germs are less likely to be spread.

“There’s nothing like an angry mom to say, ‘This is not acceptable, this needs to change.’ Public health inspectors, at least in the U.S., only visit pools once, twice, three times a year. I don’t know how it works in Canada, but you know the pool inspector’s not there every day.”

Thanks to

Kathy Dowsett
Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, July 21, 2011

3 Very Cool Things About Sharks

Oh, the shark. Most people are terrified of them, yet have never seen them but in pictures. They are mutilated for their fins, the eating of which is a symbol of affluence, yet little respect is paid to the shark’s amazing legacy. Sadly, the decimation of many species has been so extreme, that the shark may one day join the ranks of many extinct creatures, whom we can only imagine today.

It’s time some of the sharks’ finer points were brought to light.

Hammerhead shark

Sharks have been here quite awhile.

Scientific evidence through study of fossils indicates that the shark has been inhabiting Earth’s oceans for a period of 400 million years. Fossil evidence shows dinosaurs only started showing up about 230 million years ago, making the shark one of the planet’s oldest inhabitants. Although sharks have evolved from their early inception, for the last 100 million years or so they have remained largely unchanged. Many species have become extinct within this time, but the shark on the whole has survived through millennia, as a testament to their adaptive capabilities and tenacity. Are humans to be responsible for the ultimate demise of their species?

Leopard shark

Sharks are highly intelligent.

Many people think the shark is an instinct-driven predator, and that its only motivation is blood. However, research has shown that sharks are indeed intelligent animals, displaying cognitive behaviors related to problem solving, social activity, and curiosity. They have been observed working as members of a team to fulfill a task. Some scientists think that the intelligence level is comparable to that of a canine. There are many anecdotal reports that the great white can display nipping and nose bumping as a means of trying to figure out what a diver or a vessel is, but when their curiosity is satisfied that it is not a food source or threat, it swims away. Sharks are sensitive to electromagnetic currents, and will steer clear of bait, humans, or areas that exhibit such properties, regardless of whether it is a regular feeding ground or source of food.

Sharks are vital to the world’s ecosystems.

People are often given misinformation as to the danger a shark presents to human life. While attacks have happened, it is statistically more likely for a person to get hit by a car or fatally stung by a bee than it is to be attacked by a shark.

Whale Shark

Humans are not a tasty dish to the shark; they prefer the blubber of sea lions and other ocean creatures. The danger that is less reported is what will happen to the planet’s ecosystems if sharks are removed from the food chain. For example, sharks fill a very important role in keeping numbers of herbivorous fish at bay. If herbivorous populations were allowed to increase ad infinitum, the very phytoplankton that is the source of half of the world’s oxygen would face overconsumption by herbivorous creatures. Sharks are akin to lions and tigers in the food chain — their place at the top allows for a filtering effect that affects every living thing. Because there is no precedent set for the consequences of their extinction, many turn a blind eye to theories regarding this very real situation.

This information is given with the intent to make people think beyond the present time, if only for a minute. Every creature has a role on this planet, and the shark is one of the most important. Instead of acting out of fear or ignorance, we should strive to become educated on the whole issue and make choices based on that information.

As it’s been said in a variety of ways over history: knowledge is power.

Thanks to Leisure Pro and Aqua Pro News

Kathy Dowsett
Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

NOAA targets "Graveyard of the Atlantic"

The “Graveyard of the Atlantic,” an area along the Outer Banks of North Carolina and the Virginia coastline, is the target of a new NOAA led expedition. Researchers will try to locate and study World War II shipwrecks sunk in 1942, including the German submarine U-576, off North Carolina during the Battle of the Atlantic, specifically the Battle of Convoy KS-520. The shipwrecks include sunken vessels from U.S. and British naval fleets, merchant ships and U-boats.

“This summer will be the most ambitious of our Battle of the Atlantic research expeditions, and potentially the most exciting,” said David W. Alberg, superintendent, USS Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. “This expedition is all about partnerships, collaboration and using cutting edge technology to search for and document historically significant shipwrecks tragically lost during World War II.”

On July 14, 1942, a merchant convoy of 19 ships and five military escorts left Hampton Roads, Virginia, sailing south to Key West, Florida, to deliver cargo to aid the war effort. The next day, off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, Convoy KS-520 was attacked by German submarine U-576. The convoy fought back with an American warship ramming the U-boat while U.S. Navy aircraft dropped depth charges that sunk the submarine.

Alberg said NOAA’s expedition will build on work conducted by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) during the past three summers to document and preserve an important part of North Carolina’s history. The 2011 Battle of the Atlantic expedition survey will be conducted in four phases aboard the ONMS Research Vessel 8501.

Phase one of the project will include a wide area survey in water depths of 100 to 1,500 feet. Advanced remote sensing technologies, including an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) and multiple sonar systems, will be used to attempt to locate undiscovered wreck sites, including the U-576 and the Bluefields, a Nicaraguan tanker the U-576 sunk in a torpedo strike.

A more targeted survey will be conducted during the second phase, relying on an AUV and multibeam sonar systems to produce 3-D images of wreck sites. Scientists also will be investigating potential fuel leaks at the sites.

During phase three, researchers will return to selected targets identified in the wide area survey and use a 3-D scanner to create highly detailed models of the wrecks. In the final phase, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) system and high definition 3-D video cameras will be used to create photo-mosaics of shipwreck sites for research, education and outreach purposes.
Many of the World War II wrecks off North Carolina, some lying as shallow as 100 feet (30 meters), serve as popular recreational dive sites and are visited by thousands of divers each year. Unfortunately, some of these wrecks have been severely damaged over the years by human activity. Both NOAA and the recreational diving community promote open access to the shipwrecks and encourage responsible dive behavior and preservation of underwater resources for future generations to enjoy.

At least 1,000 ships including the USS Monitor, a participant in the famous Battle of Hampton Roads during the American Civil War, have sunk in these waters since records began in 1526. The area is known for severe weather, strong currents, and navigational challenges, particularly in the Diamond Shoals area off Cape Hatteras where the warm waters of the Gulf Stream collide with the cold waters of the Labrador Current.

ONMS is leading the 2011 “Battle of the Atlantic” expedition survey with support and technical expertise from its Maritime Heritage Program, NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement, and the National Park Service.

The picture shows U-9, an early Type IIB U-boat. Launched on July 30, 1935, the submarine did sink eight ships totaling 17,221 tons during 19 patrols. After being struck by a bomb from a soviet aircraft on August 20, 1944, U-9 went to the bottom of the Black Sea near Constanta.

Thanks to Global Adventures, LLC

Kathy Dowsett
Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, July 17, 2011

3 Innovations to Keep You Interested in the Sport

Scuba Diving, Kish Island, IranImage via Wikipedia

Most people first starting to learn scuba diving tend to be overwhelmed. Of course they are pumped up with excitement and are impatient as well. We can appreciate that sentiment; however, it is critical to be informed about the essentials and their source. The issue of reliable and credible information has been brought to the forefront with the internet for obvious reasons. Sometimes even with the best intentions; people for some reason print deceptive ideas. Be sure of the foundation from which your information comes.

As covered before in other articles, you are advised to make the best use of the air intake. To most experience divers, this is a popular focus. The center of attention is on the new diver and pointing out the significance of how air is a valuable commodity. An added hint is to utilize as little activity as possible when diving. After you have a bit of diving at hand, you should try not to use your arms unless absolutely necessary. Your fins have a great deal of ability. Find a comfortable position for your arms and just let your fins do your work, and you will use less air. Some things you will hear many times, so you never forget, in your classes for PADI certification. When things are repeated many times, usually it is because what is said is important. You should never dive when you have a cold, is one of these things. Equalization issues can happen from the congestion that usually comes with a cold. If you dive with a cold, or take cold medication so you can dive, then the risk is what is known as “reverse squeeze” which can occur during your ascent. Diving might be fun, but it is also dangerous, especially if you have a cold.

All veterans will tell you that in advance of your descent into a lake or the ocean, you should begin equalizing prior to the event. The popular Valsalva maneuver is used by many divers to clear their ears out before going into the water and descending into the deep. No matter who you are, you have probably done this several times before. You simply pinch your nose, and then blow through your nose as gently as possible. It is best to do the Valsalva maneuver prior to going into the water for your dive.

What this does is helps equalize the pressure in your ears, something that should not be done while on the dive itself. So before you go under, do this technique, and you will have no problem equalizing the pressure in your ears. To make scuba diving safe and enjoyable, there are many rules and regulations, as well as safety tips. We hope it is more than obvious why they exist. Yet, divers routinely discover they can shave corners here and there for various reasons. Once a situation falls apart, and you find yourself in a deadly situation, it is quite often too late to overcome the shortcuts you have taken.

Thanks to Scuba Diving

Kathy Dowsett
Enhanced by Zemanta

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Mermaid’s Tale

Mermaid statue at Laem SamilaImage via Wikipedia

Among the rampant myths and tall tales that have entertained humankind for millennia, mermaids occupy a unique position in the lineup because of the way they are depicted in different cultures. Some see them as a magical and benevolent creature, while others warn that they are the harbinger of disaster. Although they are widely regarded as fictional characters, people have claimed sightings of mermaids throughout time, which begs the question: are mermaids real?

The first known mermaid tales came from Assyria, which is now northern Iraq, around 1,000 BC. This story explains the mermaid’s inception through the goddess Atargatis falling in love with a human shepherd, who she ends up killing unintentionally. She was so ashamed that she threw herself into a lake, intending to become a fish for all eternity, but her beauty could not be concealed by the lake; thus, she assumed the tail of a fish and the upper body of a human. In Greece, it is told that the sister of Alexander the Great was turned into a mermaid upon her death, and she resides in the Aegean Sea. When a ship came upon the mermaid one day, she asked, “Is King Alexander alive?” The response was that indeed he was, and conquering the world, which brought so much joy to her that she made the sea calm for the sailors to safely navigate their way.

In Asian cultures, the mermaid is a thing of wonder. Chinese folklore describes a mermaid as being capable of shedding tears that turn into pearls, and knitting a valuable material that is lightweight and translucent. For these reasons, mermaids were sought after by fishermen, but there was a slight catch to this catch — the mermaid sang a song so beautiful that it would lure the men into a trance, causing them to make foolish decisions that could result in death. A fisherman who wishes to catch a mermaid is a symbol of negative character in China, as they look upon the mermaid as a creature of grace and beauty. Japanese legend tells of gaining immortality by consuming the flesh of a mermaid. However, catching one was thought to bring about storms and bad luck, so any catch was thrown back to sea. If one were to wash up on shore, it was an omen for impending warfare or catastrophe.

The British are less enamored with the mermaid, believing her to be the creator of misfortune at sea. While some stories claim that mermaids aren’t aware or forget that humans cannot breathe underwater, it is more often told that the mermaid is a mischievous creature, with every intent of seducing and confusing sailors to their inevitable demise. A mermaid sighting is a sure sign of bad luck. A mermaid on dry land will grow legs, but her longevity is at risk due to becoming dried out. Many people have claimed to have seen the creature, in places ranging from Canada to Java. A town in Israel offered a $1 million dollar reward to any person who could prove the existence of a mermaid after dozens of people reported seeing one leaping like a dolphin off its coast. This was in 2009, and the monies have yet to be awarded.

While there have been many fraudulent attempts at proving their existence, none have surfaced that can be scientifically authenticated. But the stories must come from somewhere….

Thanks to Aqua News and Leisure Pro

Kathy Dowsett

Enhanced by Zemanta

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Saving the World's Oceans

David Suzuki FoundationImage via Wikipedia

We need to stop treating the oceans like our personal garbage dumps.

Oceans keep us alive. They provide food, oxygen, water, medicines, and recreation. They help protect us from climate change by absorbing and storing carbon dioxide. If we care about ourselves and our children and grandchildren, we must look beyond our immediate surroundings and do all we can to care for the oceans. But instead of respecting oceans as life-giving miracles, we often use them as vast garbage dumps, treating them like stores with shelves that never go empty.

The shelves are going empty, though. Humans are changing the chemistry and ecology of the ocean at a scale and rate not previously believed possible. According to a study from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean, the combined effects of overfishing, fertilizer run-off, pollution, and ocean acidification from carbon dioxide emissions are putting much marine life at immediate risk of extinction.

The 27 scientists from 18 organizations in six countries who participated in the review of scientific research from around the world concluded that the looming extinctions are “unprecedented in human history.” As a result, the same scientists have called for “urgent and unequivocal action to halt further declines in ocean health.” The main factors are what they term the “deadly trio” – climate change, ocean acidification, and lack of oxygen. Overfishing and pollution add to the problem.

The researchers also found that “existing scientific projections of how coral reefs will respond to global warming have been highly conservative and must now be modified,” and that chemicals such as “brominated flame retardants, fluorinated compounds, pharmaceuticals, and synthetic musks used in detergents and personal care products” – which can cause cancer and disrupt human endocrine and immune systems – have been found in aquatic animals everywhere, even in the Canadian Arctic. Marine litter and plastics are also found throughout the oceans, sometimes in massive swirling gyres.

Alex Rogers, the scientific director of IPSO, is quoted in The Guardian as saying he was shocked by the findings: "This is a very serious situation demanding unequivocal action at every level. We are looking at consequences for humankind that will impact in our lifetime, and worse, our children's [generation] and generations beyond that."

“Action at every level” means just that – actions that we can all take as individuals, as well as actions that governments and industry leaders must take. Reducing our own wastes, being careful about what we put down the drain, cutting down the amount of animal-based protein we eat and feed to our pets, and joining efforts to protect the oceans are a start, but the most important role we can all play is to tell governments and industry leaders that we will no longer stand for this abuse of our oceans.

We can already anticipate that industry-funded deniers, and the dupes who help spread their misinformation, will be out in force, painting this as yet another conspiracy on the part of the world’s scientists, and that some governments will put industrial interests ahead of everything else. We must put a stop to this nonsense. Every year that we stall on implementing the solutions to climate change means we are less likely to be able to resolve the problems. Other scientists and I have been warning about the consequences of climate change for more than 20 years, yet governments are still dithering while the world’s natural systems continue to erode.

What this study also shows is that we cannot look at ecosystems, species, and environmental problems in isolation. The research points out that the combined impact of all the stressors is far more severe than what scientists might conclude by looking at the individual problems.

The report exemplifies the old adage about death by a thousand cuts. There is no single place to concentrate blame except in the mirror. The study’s authors note that “traditional economic and consumer values that formerly served society well, when coupled with current rates of population increase, are not sustainable.” In other words, we need to account for the impact we have on the planet each time we flush a toilet, drink a pop, hop in a car, or eat a radish. There is no shortage of solutions – just a shortage of political will. Further delay in resolving these serious problems will only increase costs and lead to even greater losses of the natural benefits oceans give to us.

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation editorial and communications specialist Ian Hanington.

Kathy Dowsett
Enhanced by Zemanta