Making the Links: July 2015

lion, Chobe National Park, Botswana

Lion in Botswana’s Chobe National Park. (© Levi S. Norton)

This is my latest post in “Making the Links,” a monthly blog series that connects the dots between nature and people in the news. (To learn more about the goal of the series, read the first post.)

The nature in humans (stories secretly about nature)

Time to stare at a live feed of this underwater garden

This article shares a live video feed of an experimental underwater greenhouse off the coast of Italy called Nemo’s Garden. Consistent water temperature and humidity enable crops inside to grow much faster than on land. Currently focused on lettuce, beans and strawberries, the creators will soon expand to new crops like mushrooms.

The link: If successful, innovations like this could reshape how (and how much) we grow. As sea levels continue to rise and shifting weather patterns attributed to climate change make farming on land less predictable, it could also be a creative way of adapting to our new environment.

The humans in nature (stories secretly about people)

American hunter killed Cecil, beloved lion that was lured out of its sanctuary

An American dentist reportedly paid at least US$ 50,000 to kill a lion in Zimbabwe, which local officials say was done illegally.

The link: The killing of this lion spurred outrage from animal lovers around the world. There is debate within the conservation community about the value (or harm) of trophy hunting to conservation efforts. However, there’s no question that thanks to human activities, many of Africa’s most iconic species are in danger of vanishing forever. That’s why CI is one of seven organizations partnering on United for Wildlife, created by The Royal Foundation under the Duke of Cambridge. This coalition is fighting the illegal wildlife trade through a number of measures, including securing better on-site protection for wildlife, improving law enforcement and reducing global demand for wildlife products.

West Nile virus gets boost from US drought

The continuing drought in California isn’t just taking a toll on the Golden State’s water supply; it’s also increasing people’s chances of contracting a deadly disease. This article reports that in 2014, California had more than 800 reported cases of West Nile virus, leading to 31 deaths — twice as many cases and fatalities as in 2013. As natural water bodies shrink, more mosquitos are turning to artificial water sources like swimming pools to lay their eggs. There, mosquitos infected with the virus come into contact with birds, which are the main carrier of West Nile.

The link: Although one particular weather event cannot be attributed to climate change, scientists have predicted — and are already documenting — an increase in events like droughts, storms and fires across the planet. The possibility of a connection between this drought and the increase in West Nile cases is yet another sign that these shifting weather patterns can have unexpected consequences.

National park visitors can’t resist bison, despite warnings

This article reports that a woman was injured by a bison in Yellowstone National Park while she attempted to take a selfie standing within 18 feet [5.5 meters] of it, despite park restrictions that make it illegal to get within 75 feet [23 meters] of the animals.

The link: In 2014, more than 292 million people visited America’s national parks. However, from Wyoming to South Africa to Alaska, there are countless incidents of careless tourists getting too close to wildlife — with sometimes tragic results. As more people move to cities and have less frequent contact with the natural world, many are becoming disconnected from the power — and value — that nature holds.

Editor’s note: 

The daily news cycle by necessity sometimes has to leave out the big picture. However, the more we can train ourselves to see the links between nature and the news, the more aware we’ll be of nature’s central role in our lives — and of the importance of protecting it.

Molly Bergen is the senior managing editor of Human Nature. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates here. Donate to Conservation International here.

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