Does life imitate politics?

from Conservation Alabama's Blog

There’s an old saying: does art imitate life, or does life imitate art? With a first-for-Alabama this week, maybe the question should be: does life imitate politics?

For the first time, a manatee was captured and tagged in Alabama waters. Scientists from the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Seaworld Orlando, and the Sea to Shore Alliance tagged a 1,000-pound manatee with a satellite receiver. Over the next few days, scientists found 11 manatees using aerial surveillance of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. This discovery proves the long-standing belief that manatees migrate from South Florida to Alabama.
Where does the politics come in? Well, an innocuous resolution wound its way through the legislature this session that would designate the manatee the official state mammal. HB452 passed both houses of the Alabama State Legislature unanimously and the bill was signed by Governor Riley on May 13, 2009.

While manatees have been seen in Alabama waters for years, it wasn’t until the legislature passed a resolution making the West Indian Manatee the state mammal that one was captured, tagged, and returned to the wild. Does life imitate politics?


Nature Notes

By John Ackerman

Green entrepreneurs and innovators are tearing up conventional, old-fashioned ways of doing business and setting new standards for green, clean, and sustainable plans, processes, and designs.  There are many potential examples, I am only going to discuss a few but challenge each of you to search out more and share them with your friends.  So, let’s look at Engineers Without Borders, robot farmhands, solar energy in Ethiopia, and the coming RIY movement.

Engineers Without Borders ( is “a chapter-based organization devoted to bringing technical expertise to the developing world to assist with fundamental needs like clean water and reliable power.”  This non-profit organization partners with communities in developing states to create new sustainable engineering projects that enhance overall quality of life.  They use innovative processes like “Appropriate Technology Design Teams” to solve social and technological challenges in often very remote areas.  For example, they have been able to build $100 wind turbines in developing countries using local materials and have designed an inexpensive, easily transported water carrier for use in isolated regions.  Another terrific green idea is robotic farmhands. Image courtesy Engineers Without Borders-USA.

The pressure by modern militaries to find safer ways to operate in hostile and complex environments has led to several new advances in robotics.  One cross-over robotic concept may find new uses in agriculture.  An article in NewScientist, ( describes how robots could placate the needs for more farm labor while bringing high-tech skills to the farm fields.  The robots could be programmed to scan the crops for hydration levels, diseases, or precisely spray potentially harmful pesticides and fertilizers more accurately with less waste and runoff.  The robots would also be able to operate long hours, in the dark, and even in inclement weather.  The next innovation is lighting up the night for poor African villagers.

In Ethiopia, a non-profit group, the Solar Energy Foundation is expanding “horizons for 10,000 villagers in Rema, Ethiopia” (  The Foundation has installed 2,000 new solar energy systems in villager’s homes and for the first time in their lives these villagers now have electricity.  In addition, the Foundation is training young people from the villages to be solar technicians in a recently opened International Solar School.  Job opportunities for the graduates is predicted to be high and steady as four more “Solar Centers” in other villages in Ethiopia will be opening soon when an additional 8,500 solar energy systems are installed in individual homes.  Not only are Ethiopians learning about green, clean, and sustainable processes, innovators in the US have recently exported a successful sustainable acronym to the United Kingdom (UK).

Every year the UK construction industry generates over 14 million tons of building materials that could be reclaimed and resold (  A new concept developed in the US called “Reuse it Yourself” (RIY) is being implemented across the country where RIY centers will stock high quality unused building materials, such as wood, tiles, paving slabs, and flooring.  The centers will then resell the materials for between 20% -80% less than new materials.  The RIY designers estimate that the UK construction industry generates over 120 million tons of waste yearly and that the RIY program can reuse approximately 12% of that total every year.  

Clean, green, and sustainable ideas are popping up all over the globe and helping to make our world a little better place to live.  Share these new ideas with friends but also go to the “Google” on your computer or whatever search engine you use and type in “green ideas” and see what downloads.  You may be surprised with the diversity, creativity, and the optimism that pops up!