Orca whale breaching
Animals, C.A.R.E., Caring Action, Nature, Unified Caring Association

A Story About Whales, Fish and Trees

The Southern Resident Orcas, often referred to as killer whales, are an icon of the Pacific Northwest. Swimming the waters off the coast of North America from California to British Columbia, the black and white whales are one of the most recognizable and beloved marine animals in the world. Saving these Orcas turns out to be a story about whales, fish and trees.

Unified Caring Association recently co-sponsored a new project with One Tree Planted to save animals and environment through reforestation.

Sadly, there are only 75 Southern Resident Orcas remaining – which makes them an endangered species, and they are starving.

Thankfully, new conservation efforts involving One Tree Planted and Promise the Pod are drawing the connection between restoring the forests of the Pacific Northwest and saving the Orcas. By repairing critical watersheds and planting lots of trees, conservationists hope to bring back the Orcas from the brink of extinction.

But what connects trees and whales? It all comes down to what they eat!

Orca whale breaching

Bring Back the Chinook Salmon!

One of the biggest threats to the Orca is an ever-decreasing supply of fatty, healthy, plentiful salmon.

For thousands of years, the Southern Resident Orca population has relied primarily on Chinook salmon as a staple of their diet, amounting to some 80% of their caloric intake.

As the Orca migrate North and South along the Pacific coast they feed on the nutrient dense salmon coming downstream from the numerous rivers and streams that flow into the Pacific – and they need a lot of it!

Scientists estimate that it takes over 700 Chinook salmon to feed the entire current Southern Resident Orca population every single day.

However, once an abundant source of food, the Chinook salmon stocks have collapsed over the last 150 years. Today, just a little more than half of the Northwest Chinook salmon populations remain.

Human interference such as through fish hatcheries, dams, dykes and levees, logging, over-fishing, pollution, and highway construction are all impeding the salmon’s ability to spawn and survive – not to mention the impact climate change is having on rising water temperatures.

With all of these changes to their habitat, the number of Chinook salmon traveling from the Pacific Ocean upstream to their spawning grounds – and eventually returning to the ocean where the Orca feed upon them – has been steadily diminishing for decades.

But there is a way to improve this… by planting trees!

The Benefit of Trees Is Undeniable

Tree planting and restoring riparian zones (the areas where land meets a river or stream) across the Pacific Northwest is a simple and effective solution for protecting salmon stocks and ensuring the Orca can rely on Chinook salmon for years to come.

Planting trees has a number of knock-on effects that benefit the salmon and, ultimately, the Orca. The first of which is improved water quality.

The rivers and streams the salmon populate are filled with pollution. As the salmon feed and grow in these waters they store pollutants in their tissue until they return to the ocean where they are fed upon by Orca. Those contaminants are then passed on to the whales making them more vulnerable to disease and can even cause difficulties reproducing. Sadly, Orcas are one of the most polluted marine mammals in the world.

Trees planted along the banks of the river can help filter out toxins as water passes through the soil and into the rivers where the salmon spawn. This not only improves salmon survivability, but also improves the quality and quantity of food available to the Orca.

In the longer-term, the benefits of tree planting for salmon and Orca is much more apparent. As the trees grow and their roots spread, the banks of the rivers solidify, protecting against erosion and keeping the river water clear of excessive sediment, which is necessary for the salmon to spawn.

Trees also help provide important nutrients for the young salmon as they grow. Leaves, needles, and woody debris falling into the river create habitat for insects the salmon eat, helping them fatten up for the long journey downstream to the Pacific Ocean.

As the trees mature and the forest canopy thickens it provides critical shade over salmon spawning grounds. Salmon eggs need to be kept cool, and without adequate shade from vegetation on the banks of the river water temperatures will rise, reducing the chances the eggs have to develop and hatch.

Even dying and fallen trees on the banks of the river benefit salmon. Branches and trees that fall into the water help to slow down the flow, making it easier for the salmon to lay their eggs without them getting immediately washed away. Planting trees today means the debris created in the future ensures the salmon have plenty of spots to lay their eggs.

The trophic cascade brought on by planting trees is undeniable. Balancing an ecosystem is a major part of ensuring that critical species survive – and planting trees is a great place to start!

Trees Can’t Do It All On Their Own

We know that saving a species from extinction is much more complex than just planting trees. The Orca are affected by many other factors like ship traffic and ocean pollution, so there is no doubt that other steps must be taken to ensure their survival.

That being said, planting trees to restore critical salmon habitat will go a long way to making sure the Orca have enough healthy, toxin free food to eat – and it’s an action that can be taken today.

We encourage our readers to join UCA and One Tree Planted to take caring action by donating to the Orca Project today.

This article and photos reprinted from OneTreePlanted.org with permission.

sunlight for self-care
Health, Nature, Self-Care

Sunlight for Self-Care

It’s an understatement to say that the human body appreciates receiving a healthy dose of sunlight within the first few hours of the day. Sunlight for self-care is possible now that we’ve entered warmer months. Consider taking advantage of the abundance of sunlight by harnessing it as a form of personal care.

By simply offering your body a few minutes of sunlight in the morning, you are inviting a sequence of biological occurrences to unfold. This will ultimately result in more stabilized energy levels, steadier moods, deeper sleep, and stronger bones.

Lack of sunlight has been linked to a number of disorders including infertility, insomnia, anxiety, depression, among countless other conditions that yield poor health. Though it’s wise to be prudent about the amount of sun one is exposing themselves to, healthy doses of sunlight supports the production of Vitamin D, Serotonin, and Melatonin – thus becoming the foundation of our waking and sleeping lives.

How Sunlight Interacts with the Body

When sunlight penetrates into our vision, the information of the light travels through the optic nerve all the way into the brain, and throughout its numerous glands. It is here where the pituitary gland takes the information from the sunlight and begins to produce Serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with states of wakefulness and joy.

When sunlight touches our skin, the body begins to generate a supply of Vitamin D – this is essential for calcium absorption, bone growth, and maintaining Serotonin supplies. Without proper Vitamin D levels, the body becomes ill-equipped to collect the sunlight’s information to convert into Serotonin. This can mean bad news for emotional health. As the lack of sunlight is directly linked to feelings of hopelessness, depression, and a general lackluster for life. There is also a wealth of clinical research linking the proportion of sunlight to cases of suicide.

From a biological standpoint, healthy Serotonin production is important because it’s the precursor to the production of Melatonin – the hormone responsible for nourishing sleep. While natural sunlight stimulates Serotonin, the darkness of night stimulates Melatonin. As the sun begins to rise again, the brain gives orders to halt Melatonin production, and so continues this very synergistic process that is completely commanded by the body’s perception of light.

It’s for this reason that keeping artificial light to a minimum after sunset is important to ensure the body has a chance to generate sufficient sleep hormone. It’s also relevant to note that sunlight filtered through windows does not count as a natural sunlight. This is because the technology in windows blocks UV light from coming in, meaning it’s no longer full spectrum light and behaves differently in the body than direct sunlight would. True unadulterated sunlight is what stimulates these supportive biological responses.

Trust Sunlight for Self-Care

Though there’s a lot of reluctance to trust the sun these days, the evidence in its favor is staggering. From treating physical ailments to addressing emotional well-being, studies are pointing towards sunlight as a supplementary solution. Ample research has indicated that anywhere between 5-15 minutes of sunlight a few days a week is all that’s needed for noticeable improvement.

Ultimately, our goal here is to create an environment that supports wakefulness during the day, and effective downtime at night. With the influx of sleeping problems, mid-day exhaustion, and disruptions to physical health, we have little to lose by turning to the sunlight for self-care and support. Especially when considering that sunlight is a completely free resource, available to all.

We are all being called to do extraordinary things for the collective caring of our families, communities and the world in response to the unique coronavirus pandemic. Whether home bound or providing critical services, everyone is stretched to adapt like never before.  All of us are in this together. Now more than ever, caring is what we need most. Caring for our self. Caring for others around us. Life is going to require new routines, resilience and compassion. We invite you to join us in creating a caring movement to respond to local needs.

Would you like to read more about UCA caring resources? We have other blogs on Unified Caring Association, caring in our communities, and caring the UCA way!

Article by Melissa Aparicio, contributing author

Feel Good News, Nature, Sharing Caring, Unified Caring Association

People Pick Up Tons of Trash

Viral Internet Challenge is Spurring People Around the World to Pick Up Tons of Trash and Then Snap Photos

Rather than eating tide pods or spoonfuls of cinnamon, an eco-friendly new social media trend is inspiring people around the world to clean up litter.

The #TrashTag challenge has reportedly been around for several years. Recently, it became a trending topic on InstagramTwitter, and Reddit.

Participants are challenged to find an outdoor area that has been littered with trash. They take two photos of the scenery. The first is for viewers so they can see the garbage. The other is of the revitalized area after you have cleaned up all the trash.

The impressive before-and-after #TrashTag photos have been circulating around the world – from Mexico and Belgium to New York and India.

The initiative is being lauded as a refreshingly impactful social media trend. It is encouraging people from every demographic to participate in tidying up the planet.

The challenge is remarkably similar to the #StonerCleanupInitiative, an online effort that recruited potheads to pick up the trash around their favorite outdoor smoking spots back in August 2018.

Some people participating in the #TrashTag challenge have managed to tidy up roadsides simply by bringing along garbage bags on their day trips; others have boasted the dramatic results of organizing group cleanups.

Regardless, the photos are inspiring evidence of how – even though it can sometimes be a bit trashy – the internet has the ability to bring people together for the greater good.”

Via the Good News Network