#2: WATCH

I encourage you to WATCH documentaries about Earth. Now surely you’re wondering, how does watching television help the planet? Good question. The answer is that by watching documentaries you learn. You can learn more about our amazing planet and its biodiversity. You might discover velvet worms, peacock spiders, or saigas. The documentaries will take you on journeys to the ends of the earth to wild places – remote islands, deep in the rainforest, or far below the surface of the ocean. Documentaries also reveal what’s happening to our planet. Some of them are hard to watch.

Jane Goodall once said, “Only if we understand, will we care. Only if we care, will we help. Only if we help, shall all be saved.” I truly, truly believe this. In our modern, fast paced world, it’s so easy to live our lives in a bubble. Really, we can easily ignore what’s happening. Documentaries, though, expose what’s at stake.

Here’s a list of some of my favorite:

  • Planet Earth (BBC)
  • Planet Earth II (BBC)
  • Human Planet (BBC)
  • Blue Planet: Seas of Life (BBC)
  • Chasing Coral (Netflix)
  • Chasing Ice (Netflix)
  • Mission Blue (Netflix)
  • Kiss the Ground
  • Dancing with the Birds (Netflix)
  • Our Planet (Netflix)

I know that there are many others out there, but this is a list of ones that have had the most impact on me and on my family. Feel free to suggest others. So, like my alien friends here, grab a snack, curl up with a friend, and watch a documentary because it’s…

…#YourPlanetToo.

#1: START

Dear Readers,

Like so many people around the world, I’m concerned about our planet and the biodiversity we share it with. Humans are affecting Earth like no other species before us. But we also have the ability to slow, stop, and reverse the damage we are doing. The time for change is now.

This amazing planet belongs to all of us. Therefore, we should all be part of the solution; we also have a right to demand change. Yet for most people, kids especially, where to start seems very daunting indeed. Yet youth activists from around the world have shown us that kids CAN and DO make a difference. Can I myself make a difference? Can I help kids make a difference? I’ll never know the answers unless I try. And I invite you to join me.

Today I START…I am taking the first step in honor of Earth Day on April 22. For the next year, I will post new ways for kids to get involved in protecting the planet. This is not to say that I expect you to do it all. Instead, I invite you to pick one action you believe you can commit to and do it. And don’t stop. The idea is that we all need to start somewhere, even if the steps are small. Remember, though, that a lot of small steps by different people can add up to whole lot of change. Get your friends, classmates, and family to join us. Take that first step because it’s…

…#YourPlanetToo.

Biofluorescent Springhares

Olson, E.R., Carlson, M.R., Ramanujam, V.M.S. et al. (2021)

I would imagine that just about everyone associates pink rabbits with Easter and children’s toy stores. Think again. Biofluorescent springhares are real animals. And they are biofluorescent (not to be confused with bioluminescent).

If an animal is biofluorescent, it means that the animal absorbs short wavelengths like blue light and emits it as longer wavelengths of a different color (red, orange, yellow, and green) when viewed with ultraviolet light. In the case of the springhares, we see them as pink. It’s almost as if the springhares glow.

There are two species of these hares that are biofluorescent, both of which are found in Africa. And, despite being called hares, these nocturnal creatures are actually rodents. Scientists are increasingly discovering mammal species (as well as birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish) with this same quality, yet are still unclear about the ecological importance. Most, though, are nocturnal or crepuscular, suggesting that animals that are active in low light environments use the biofluorescent cues for mate selection, avoiding predators, and foraging.

Saiga

Photo by Dasha Urvachova

When you look at a saiga, probably the first thing you notice is its comical, bulbous nose that is slightly trunk-like. In some ways, they resemble something conjured up by Dr. Seuss. And yet the saiga is a real-life antelope living on the Eurasian Steppe, an open grassland that stretches practically uninterrupted from Romania to central Asia into Mongolia and China.

It will come as no surprise that the fun nose of the saiga is an adaptation against the cold, dusty plains. The nasal cavity of saiga is similar to a whale’s, yet in saiga habitat the nose warms and moistens inhaled dry, frigid winter air. In warmer, drier months, their noses help to filter out dust. That nose may also play a role in choosing a mate. A loud nasal roar by males is thought to be a way for them to show off their size and condition. Those noses are also apparently very good at smelling with.

Even full grown, these animals are about the size of a German shepherd. Like on other grasslands around the world, the saiga of the Eurasian Steppe also migrate in herds numbering into the thousands. And, fun fact, on a saiga’s second day of life they are already able to run faster than a human!