Is your zoo an amphibean refuge?

Photo courtesy of spisharam at

Despite what the Chinese zodiac says, 2008 is officially the year of the frog. Nearly 6,000 frog species are threatened with extinction, and there’s no time like the present to take action.

Frogs are under intensive pressure – they face massive habitat loss, pesticide poisoning and even human predation. As if those dangers weren’t enough, a previously unknown fungus recently began attacking frogs. This fungus has an extremely high mortality rate – after Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis is introduced, 50% of amphibian species and 80% of individuals generally die within 1 year. Think of it as Kermit Ebola.

It’s likely that the spread of Chytrid Fungus is caused by human activity. Chytrid Fungus is moving along with global trade, and the problem is developing at a much faster rate than previous infections. Dutch Elm Disease took nearly 30 years to cross from Europe to the United States, while Chytrid Fungus took roughly 20 years to cross from the US to Europe. The pathogen wasn’t even identified in the lab until after it had spread to virtually every country in the world. Globalization has something to do with this, but the deadly fungus is also getting a boost from global warming..

“Climate change is making for cooler days and warmer nights due to changes in cloud cover on the tropical mountains,” [says Alan Pounds, an ecologist at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve in Costa Rica]. This shifts temperatures to those more agreeable to the fungus, which thrives between 17°C and 25°C. “Global warming is loading the dice in favour of this disease-causing fungus,” he says.

There is good news, though. An effective treatment has been found using over-the-counter antibiotic cream. This means that wherever frogs can be reached, they can be treated to cure infection. Several zoos and botanical preserves are working with the group Amphibean Ark to create refuges for wild frog populations. The idea is to treat incoming frogs and create a biosecure area in case the frogs go extinct in the wild.

Is your zoo taking part? You can petition them to get with the program, and raise awareness about the issue. Several zoos, such as the Denver Zoo, have found big money in frog preservation. These programs are extremely effective at raising donations and improving visitor turnout. Kids love cute frogs – and this is a way to make sure that frogs are around for our grandchildren!

Photo courtesy of shadowowl at

Zoo programs are already having unexpected results. The Memphis Zoo has found a new way to preserve the endangered Mississippi gopher frog. They’ve introduced a program to save the species using in-vitro fertilization. With only about 100 adults left in the wild, the zoo has spawned a batch of 94 viable tadpoles. That’s an amazing result!

Religious Leaders are going Green



Photo courtesy of job_earth at

An increasing number of religious leaders are promoting environmental causes at the pulpit. From using organic bread during mass to promoting water conservation as a path to peace in the Middle East, these leaders are connecting the dots between conservative faith and conservation. Here are 20 very different leaders who stand out for their environmental activism.

Additional newsworthy developments include:


Photo courtesy of Magda-50 at

Religion gets tough on pollution. Thou shalt not pollute?

Just looking over the new 7 deadly sins version 2.0 in this article in the AP and it would appear that the Vatican has now added pollution to the list.

According to Pope Gregory the Great, the seven deadly sins are Lust, Gluttony, Greed, sloth, Wrath, envy and pride. These are capital sins that could lead to eternal damnation without confession or “perfect contrition.

The new deadly sins include Pollution, mind altering drugs, genetic experiments, and the rich getting richer at the expense of the poor.

“If yesterday sin had a rather individualistic dimension, today it has a weight, a resonance, that’s especially social, rather than individual,” said Girotti, whose office deals with matters of conscience and grants absolution.

Not to be outdone, the Baptist church has come out stating that we have a biblical duty to stop global warming, according to this article in the Washington Post. “A Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change” states that there is substantial evidence for global warming.

“We believe our current denominational resolutions and engagement with these issues have often been too timid,” the statement said. “Our cautious response to these issues in the face of mounting evidence may be seen by the world as uncaring, reckless and ill-informed. We can do better.”

In the Baptist church, things like this are considered by the individual churches as more of a strong suggestion rather than a commandment. Local churches have a greater deal of autonomy when it comes to these kind of declarations.

We can only hope that our elected leaders who make such a show of their faith are listening.

Follow up on Green Credit Cards

Photo courtesy of k9ine at

A week after contacting the three companies that are offering Green Credit Cards, only one of the companies has replied to my questions:

Emily, at Brighter Planet, wrote:

Hi George – The market rate for our offsets are $12 a ton, and we measure in short tons (2000 lbs.) And as far as biodegradable plastic goes, we wish! The truth is that only giftcards can be made out of biodegradable material right now because they hold up for 3-5 swipes, not enough for a credit card. As soon as a good enough, durable plastic comes out we’ll switch! Thanks for your interest and let me know if there are other questions I can answer for you.


I asked these same questions to the other green card providers and I’m still waiting on a reply from Earth Rewards and Green Pay. But I’m not holding my breath – have you ever tried getting straight talk from a credit card company?

Photo courtesy of unitednatures at

Green credit cards. Reward cards that help the environment?

Photo courtesy of WookieSlayer at

There are credit cards that offer just about every incentive under the sun. For those who want to earn cash back, airline miles, or even strange things like hours in jetfighter training, there are cards that reward cardholders with a percentage of every dollar spent. Now, several companies have rolled out credit cards with an environmental affinity. For every purchase on these cards, a portion of the fees are invested into carbon offsets and financing projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

General Electric launched the Earth Rewards MasterCard. It offers two green options – users can donate 1% of their purchases to fighting global warming, or they can keep half a percent for themselves and donate the other half percent to saving the planet.

Bank of America is behind the Brighter Planet Visa. They use a point system where every dollar spent earns a point and 1,000 points equals a ton of carbon dioxide offsets. That makes it a bit hard to compare apples to oranges, but a ton of carbon costs anywhere from $5 to $40 with an average value around $10 per ton. So, that equals about the same reward rate as the Earth Rewards Card (1% or 1:100).

MetaBank offers the GreenPay MasterCard. It rewards cardholders with 5 lbs of CO2 reduction for every dollar spent and 10 lbs for every dollar spent on gasoline or utilities. The first thing to do in comparing these is to convert carbon pounds to carbon tons. Carbon credits are measured using metric tons and 1 metric ton is approximately 2205 lbs. So, at the lower rate, every $441 spent on the card earns 1 ton of carbon credits. Assuming $10 per ton of carbon credit, that works out to about a 2.2% reward rate or 1:45.

From the information on their websites and responses to my inquiries, it appears that all of these cards are printed on standard plastic blanks. That’s a real shame, considering that many stores now offer gift cards printed on biodegradable plastics.

In summary:
Earth Rewards MasterCard: 1:100 (1 cent earned per dollar spent)
Brighter Planet Visa: approximately 1:100 (1 cent per dollar )
GreenPay MasterCard: approximately 1:45 (2.2 cents per dollar )
Greenpay MasterCard for gas and electricity purchases: 1:22 (4.5 cents per dollar)

The cards also have critics:

Some advocates question whether the green cards will actually lead to fewer greenhouse-gas emissions. “What I am more concerned about is that it gives people an easy pass: ‘OK, I’ve got my green credit card, so I can do things that are carbon-ridiculous,'” says Leslie Lowe, director of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility on Energy and Environment, a nonprofit based in New York.

For now, your best bet may be to keep a high reward card and use the rewards to purchase carbon credits on your own. Whether you join one of these programs or not, you can always sign up for paperless statements and cut your footprint that way!