Q: What are the biggest threats to amphibians right now?

Choices of answers:

1. the Chytrid fungus
2. pollution
3. man taking over land that animals live on
4. pesticides, chemicals in the water and chemicals in the ground
5. global climate change
6. All of the Above and much more

Answer Essay: Not surprisingly, the answer is number 6, "All of the Above". The Chytrid fungus causes serious illness in amphibians and it is thought to be one of the main culprits in the decline of amphibians today. Though humans did not create the fungus, humans do spread it. Anything that has contaminated water on it like tires, hiking boots, sneakers, even that net people use to catch frogs with, can spread the fungus to another location.

As for the other factors on this list of answer choices, they are pretty self-explanatory and all are caused by humans. We, as a species, must take positive action to seriously put the brakes on what we are doing to this planet. The U.S. is by far the biggest energy glutton on Earth and its pretty hard to convince up and coming nations like China and India to be environmentally conscious when people in this country do not do the same.

For some people, drastic change isn't going to happen in their lives. They won't seriously alter their lifestyle, not until the last polar bear is dead and maybe not even then. But it doesn't really take as much as some people think. Consolidating errands to drive less is a BIG help and doesn't take much. Its cheaper for you, too. Switching to energy efficient bulbs is another way you can make a difference and save yourself a lot of money on both your electric bill and the cost of light bulbs. I have one compact fluorescent that I bought when they first became available in the 1990's and its STILL in use over 10 years later! And it got used a lot over that 10 years, believe me.

For those who have heard that compact fluorescent bulbs are dangerous, here's the scoop. These bulbs are only potentially dangerous if they are broken. How often do you break light bulbs? A few times in a lifetime? When you do have a broken compact fluorescent bulb, however, here is a great page on how to properly clean it up. I suggest your cut and paste this info into a file on your computer and/or print it out and store it where you store extra light bulbs so it is handy in the event of an accident. Considering what these bulbs can save, any small threat about mercury is surely worth the risk versus the alternatives.

One of the biggest things you can do for yourself and the environment is learn to eliminate chemicals from your home. Most of them are going to be in the form of cleaning products and air fresheners. Big chemical companies, like the tobacco companies, are not anxious for the public to know the truth about what they sell. Exposure over time to ammonia based cleaners and other household chemical cleaners causes breathing problems, birth defects and can cause cancer because these chemicals are carcinogenic.

Is it mere coincidence that during the last century, the rate of cancer cases and birth defects and learning disorders has increased monumentally and at the same time the use of toxic chemical cleaners was introduced to the home, as well as the widespread use of personal hygiene chemicals such as deoderant, shampoo, hair spray and other chemicals?

Did you know that ordinary soap kills most germs? Did you know that ordinary white vinegar is so acidic that it can kill almost the same amount of germs as products like lysol? And using lysol and other germ killers teaches germs how to mutate. Many reports have shown the danger of using anti-biotics which cause drug resistant strains of bacteria to develop. In the end, a drug that saves a few lives kills many more when these mutated bacteria become resistant to traditional treatments.

There are so many things we do that impact this planet. Its time humans learn to accept this. Nothing you do is free of consequences. Even something as seemingly simple as tossing a cigarette butt out the car window has serious consequences and a number of scenarios. Even tobacco giant Philip Morris is urging people to use portable table ashtrays to control cigarette butt litter, which the company admits is the number one litter type on Earth, followed by discarded cigarette packaging. Regardless of your position on smoking, the fact cannot be changed about the litter, which for the sake of wildlife, should be taken seriously.

Nicotine has been BANNED as a pesticide in the U.S. and for good reason. But did you know that the nicotine content of 200 discarded cigarette butts is enough to nicotine to kill a person? And consider this: 1. It can take up to 12 years for a cigarette butt to break down 2. Cigarette butts can leach chemicals such as cadmium, lead and arsenic into our water within 1 hour of contact and 3. Cigarette butts have been found in the stomachs of fish, whales, birds and other marine animals which leads to ingestion of hazardous chemicals and digestive blockages and this is just to name a few things! Do a web search on "cigarette butt litter" and learn all you can. Urge every smoker you know to please use portable ashtrays and not the earth. In just one year, (according to www.buttsout.net)
approximately 4.3 TRILLION cigarette butts are littered, so consider how many are on the earth that will not decompose for around a decade and we are talking about an amazing numeral!

Personal ashtrays can be found online. Just do a search. As buttsout.net points out, only smokers can stop the number one litter on earth! Take action.

Okay, but what about the 80% of Americans who do not smoke? What can we all do to make a big difference? Below is a list of suggestions that anyone can do (even the 20% of adults who still smoke) and really make a big impact in the long run:

1. Get together with friends and neighbors and clean up the road side or sidewalk where you live. Did you know people are much less likely to throw garbage like fast food cups onto a clean area than they are if its already littered? You'll be making a big difference in a big way.

2. Unplug things that draw current when not in use. A simple thing like unplugging your microwave when not in use can have a big impact over the course of a year. Get a battery powered clock for your kitchen or use only one digital clock, such as a clock on your oven range. The microwave can be unplugged if its not functioning as an expensive clock. We use our microwave so little, it stays unplugged for many days before it gets used, (usually not by me) just to heat up a cup of coffee. Other items that can but unplugged from the wall should if they're not in use. If it draws current, even to run a clock or be in stand-by mode, its using electricity wastefully.

3. Unless you have a medical problem that warrants certain temperature control, consider turning your heat thermostat down a degree or two in the winter and turn your air conditioning up a degree or two during the warmer months. This can make a big impact on energy use and your heating and cooling bills. Of course, certain medical conditions, like mine, do not allow me to be in a room warmer than 66 degrees before I have trouble breathing. But man, think how I make up for it in the winter! I can keep my home VERY cool. And did you know that keeping your home very hot in the winter is one of the leading causes of getting a cold? So consider a warm winter quilt and an extra sweater this winter. Your wallet and planet will thank you.

4. Learn about setting up a compost heap. Composting is a great way to get rid of biodegradable trash like grass clippings, fruit and vegetable and grain trash. Don't put meat in the heap, though. There's lots of sites online to learn about composting. Your compost can attract worms and other insects that attract toads, so its a double bonus!

5. Support alternative fuel. Consolidating errands is a big step in the right direction, but in the end, we need alternative fuel that doesn't cause global climate change. Its that simple.

6. Buy really good wrapping paper for holidays and then reuse it! Bows, too.The holidays and birthdays are a time that a LOT of trash is created. Papers printed with toxic ink, like wrapping paper, are normally used once and then never again. They are balled up and tossed in the garbage. The mylar paper might not be very Earth friendly when they make it or throw it out, but it can be used over and over. Just agree to unwrap gifts carefully and roll the paper and store it with a plastic "rubber" band. This is a great way to your money's worth on paper and help to not make more toxic trash. You can also do the old "comic strip" wrapping paper by using the Sunday comics to wrap gifts. There's also the old "Little House on the Prairie" gift method of wrapping things with cloth and tying it with string. Get creative. Your wallet and the planet will thank you.

Needless to say there are many, many more suggestions that can have a big impact. The bottom line is, think everyday about everything you do or don't do and how it will impact the future. You might be surprised at just how much influence you really have, especially if you set a good example for others.


Question: What is the single easiest thing you can do everyday to make a difference in the environmental problem?

Answer Choices:
1. always remember to recycle bottles and cans
2. buy energy efficient lightbulbs like halogen and compact fluorescent
3. when buying a product, try to buy the brand with the least amount of plastic packaging and write to companies urging them to use less packaging
4. Unplug stuff I'm not using so that electric current isn't being used and wasted turn off all lights I am not using even if my electricity is included in my rent
5. Plant more trees and bushes, even if they're in a container garden in the city
6. turn my heat thermostat down a degree or two, even if heat is included in my rent
7. Raise the air conditioner a degree or two (unless you have a medical condition)
8. Always be sure to throw out extinguished cigarette butts in the garbage and not in the water supplies or on the ground
9. All of the above are easy ways to make a big difference!

Answer Essay: As you can imagine, all the choices are correct. When I lived in New York city, I knew several people who did not pay a separate gas and electric bill. They're gas, electric and heat were "included in the rent". Not surprisingly, it was not uncommon to go visit these people and they had all the lights on and TV running and pretty much had anything electrical going or plugged in all at once. The bathroom lights were left on for hours and in one case almost never turned off! Their stock answer about this was, "Oh, I don't pay for it"!!!! I would like to think I helped educate my friends and they don't do this anymore.

My point is, they aren't the only ones. In buildings like theirs, which house hundreds and hundreds of people, most tenants take that same "Oh, I don't pay for it" attitude and act like its "free". If you live in such a building, talk to your landlord about spreading the word to save electricity by turning off lights and other things that aren't needed. You may not get through to everyone, but even if you educate just a couple of people, think of how many tons of carbon you will be saving from going into the atmosphere.

If you live in the city and have a balcony, get a container garden going. Put an evergreen in a large pot and you will have a nice tree out there all year long. You can also plant tomato plants in containers and let them vine along the balcony fencing. Even if you hate tomatoes, they look nice and you can always give them to friends. If you like tomatoes, think of how much money you will save in the late summer and fall. Nowadays, you can order many plants and pots online so not being able to get to a nursery isn't much of an excuse anymore.

If you live anyplace that has a small dirt strip or patch of grass in front of it, consider planting a tree or some bushes. Even tiny garden spaces can be made to look spectacular and all green growing things help the Earth to clean the air.

Again, there is so much we can all do to make a huge difference. These are only a handful of suggestions for things that aren't too hard to do and save you money!


Question: True or False: Street lights and other artificial lights at night harm amphibian vision

Answer Choices:
1. True
2. False

Answer Essay: True. Studies show that artificial light does injure the eyes of nocturnal animals, including frogs and toads. Obviously, sometimes you need to use an outdoor light at night but let's face it, most people leave them on thoughtlessly all night, every night. Sadly, we live in a building that has attached apartments and the ignorant tenants next door insist on leaving incandecent lights burning all night, even when both of them are home, or one of them won't be coming home from work until 8am when it's light out. Even being told that the light is wasteful for their electricity bill, bad for wildlife and highly disturbing to their neighbors, they do not care and do it anyway. Studies have shown that darkness is essential to the eye health of nocturnal animals. We invite you to look this up.

If you have an outdoor light, please consider the following: 1. Consider installing a motion sensor so that the light only goes on when needed. 2. Consider using a timer so that outdoor lights go out after a reasonable hour. 3. Install solar lights. It only takes a handful of high quality fixtures to give adequate light to light up walk ways and the area near your door. These solar lights are much less glaring and offensive than traditional bulbs and don't cost you anything to run once purchased.


Question: What is the number one type of garbage found on earth today?

Answer Choices:
1. fast food cups and wrappers
2. newspapers
3. cigarette butts
4. aluminum cans

Answer Essay: This was already answered above. One need only look along the side of most curbs in America and most road sides, to see that most of the litter consists of cigarette butts. The other items are trash, too, of course and are seen in good quantity in some places.

Two years ago, my husband and I went to the Bronx Zoo. He didn't grow up in the city, he's only be there a handful of times. As we waited for a light to change after coming off one of the highways, we looked to either side of us and were shocked to see the entire road side covered - every inch covered with trash! There were literally THOUSANDS, not hundreds, but thousands of cigarette butts! And there was a fair amount of fast food wrappers and cartons, soda cups, old newspapers, old tires, you name it! It was repulsive. And when it rained, all those butts got wet and leached their toxins into a long stream down to the nearest water. It was frighteningly disgusting. All we could think was "How can people live like this?". But the fact is, most people wouldn't look at that road side dump and think, "How disgusting! I'm not going to contribute to it". Sadly, most people will say, "Who cares?" and toss more trash out the window.

Too bad NYC doesn't have cameras in place at these stops so that if anyone tosses garbage or butts out of the windows, their license plate number will be captured and they could get a ticket in the mail. The city would get a lot of revenue this way and maybe people who don't think with their heart, will think with their wallet and keep their trash in their vehicle to be disposed of properly.


Summary: I do hope that something I've said here has inspired someone out there to take positive action. As it stands, people who are children today are going to inherit a very different planet than the one we all grew up in. They will be forced to pay the consequences of their parents ignorance.

The current amphibian crisis threatens a full 1/3 of all the amphibian species on Earth, but amphibians aren't the only ones threatened. I urge all thinking people to get educated and make changes for the better. Teach by example and be sure to help kids understand the urgency of caring for their world. Its the only planet we have!

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