Seafood with a side of plastic

We know that plastic waste is a hazard for sealife. But a study has proven that it hits closer to home than you think: it affects you, too!

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Concerns for Humans
Researchers in the U.K. found that plastic waste ingested by sea life can be passed to animals who eat the prey. (Spoiler alert: humans are animals too.)

Microplastic Digestion
Plastic wears down and breaks apart into small pieces, called microplastic. Many marine animals mistake microplastic for food. Researchers recently studied the scat of captive grey seals at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, Cornwall.

They found that plastic in the Atlantic mackerel eaten by seals went through the seals’ digestive system. This is the first study to prove that digested plastic is transferred from fish to a marine mammal predator.

Chemical Concerns
According to Sarah Nelms, the lead researcher on the study, the chemicals on plastic can cause a big issue for the animals who ingest the plastic. “Some of the chemicals are known to cause disruption to the immune system and important hormones,” Nelms explained.

Financial Impact
The plastic transfer can also have a financial implication. “If microplastics lead to a decline in the survival and reproduction of commercial fish species, it may have economic and social implications for people whose livelihoods depend on them,” Nelms said.

Plastic Transfer
The study suggests that anyone eating prey that swallowed plastic will ingest that plastic. There are implications on human consumption of sea life, like fish and lobster. Nelms explains, “it is possible that microplastics pass through the wall of the digestive tract and enter the edible tissue of the fish.”

So, the next time you order seafood, you might be getting more than you bargained for.

 

Nelms, S.E., et al., Investigating microplastic trophic transfer in marine top predators, Environmental Pollution (2018), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2018.02.016

 

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Save the Environment: Drink Beer

Humans are not the only species affected by plastic waste. Some businesses are using some innovative ways to protect wildlife through go-green initiatives. Here are a few of the eco-friendly actions I have noticed over the past few months.

Plastic Straws
Divi Resorts has hotels in the Caribbean. I was on vacation recently in Sint Maarten and read an article stating the chain will no longer have plastic straws. The company has several “Divi green initiatives” that include water and energy conservation and recycling. Their staff members attend eco-workshops and participate in environmental committees. I think companies who not only follow green practices but also encourage their staff to think environmentally are making a difference in the world.

A little closer to home, Sebago Brewing Company in Maine has biodegradable straws. I am always happy to see this. Most people don’t think about straws when they consider plastic waste. Why would they? Straws are so small. Unfortunately, it is their size that can cause trouble in the ocean. Straws and straw pieces can be digested by sea life.

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According to strawlessocean.org, in America alone, over 500 million straws are used per day. Many of those end up in the ocean where sea turtles, sea birds, and other sea animals ingest them.

Where does the beer come in?

beer

Six Pack Rings
Final Gravity Brewing in Kalamazoo, Michigan teamed up with a company called E6PR. It stands for Eco 6 Pack Ring. The company makes biodegradable 6-pack rings for the brewing company’s beer. How inventive is that? Wait, it gets better. Not only are the rings quickly biodegradable, but because they are made from barley and wheat byproducts from the beer-making process, they are edible. No, I’m not suggesting you eat the rings when you are done with your beer. On the other hand, I won’t judge. But it will save countless animals who do ingest the rings! Check out this amazing video about the biodegradable rings!

 

 

Have you seen any businesses that are going green? Tell me how!

Caring for Endangered Species Locally

The Endangered Species Act is under debate this year. Some members of Congress are trying to weaken or eliminate the bill. They hope to allow expansion in protected habitats in order to allow activities like development and oil mining. Caring for and protecting wildlife is more important than ever before.

The staff and volunteers at the Center for Wildlife in Cape Neddick, Maine, (thecenterforwildlife.org) are doing their best to make sure animals don’t ever need a list. They have been doing their part for animal conservation in their small piece of the world for over 30 years. They give medical care to hurt or sick animals, rehabilitate them, and hopefully, release them back into the wild.

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Endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtle/Bing Images

Unfortunately, many of the animals they see are there because of humans. The top reasons for injury or disease include animals hit by a car, tangled in fishing wire, and sick due to pollution.  The center treats over 1,500 animals each year throughout New England.

The biggest environmental concerns, according to Kristen Lamb, Executive Director at the Center for Wildlife in Cape Neddick, Maine, are land development and climate change. “They are both altering our habitats, waterways, and landscapes in a way that our wildlife and ecosystems have never had to contend with. It is also happening at a rapid pace. We have admitted over 40,000 injured and orphaned wild animals since our inception, and we are only one facility.”

Lamb is concerned with the animals as individuals as well as how they affect the balance of the world in which they live. “On an ecosystem level each species plays an important role in the balance of their habitats. And each breeding member of a threatened or endangered population that returns to the wild can have a critical impact on the survival of their species locally.”

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Endangered Piping Plover/Bing Images

Education is an important part of the work the staff do. They educate the public on the different types of animals, threats to wildlife, and things people can do to help keep the animals safe. The staff also collect data from the information they gather while treating and rehabilitating the animals. They utilize that data to inform people of current issues and concerns about wildlife.

In fact, the Center for Wildlife is one of less than 100 organizations in the world that systematically collect data and input it into a database. WILD-One stands for Wildlife Incident Log/Database and Online Network. It is an online database for wildlife and conservation professionals to collectively track and share data in one place.

As seen on the center’s research page, the data they have collected is useful in many applications. It has helped staff understand nesting behavior, offered evidence of environmental concerns in pest control chemicals, and shown evidence of medication concerns in specific species.

When asked what species she is most concerned about currently, Lamb answered definitively. “Many of the bat and turtle species we work with are critically endangered. We have lost over 6 million bats to White Nosed Syndrome in our country since 2007. As bats play an imperative role mitigating insect populations that pose a threat to agriculture, or human or economic health, we should all be concerned.”

Atrocities of Experiments at Nazi Concentration Camps

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Ravensbruck Rabbit Survivors

In WWII, the Nazi Party, led by Adolf Hitler, set up several labor concentration camps. Nazi doctors performed medical experiments on the prisoners held there. The type of torture inflicted on the unfortunate prisoners depended on which camp they resided.

Prisoners at several camps were used as human guinea pigs in immunization therapy. Doctors infected people with contagious diseases to see if anyone had natural immunity. The intent was to create vaccines to improve the immunity of the members of the German army. Malaria, Typhus, TB, Typhoid Fever, Yellow Fever, and Hepatitis were all studied.

There was only one all-female concentration camp, located in Ravensbruck, Germany. Several Polish prisoners were used in the “Sulfonamide Experiments”. Sulfa was a new drug at that time and doctors were attempting to prove its efficacy. They were attempting to learn if Sulfa could be used in treating war wounds of the German soldiers.

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Herta Oberheuser

In order to do this, doctors took several young, healthy women and cut open their legs in order to break the bone and insert debris into the wound. Dirt, glass, and bacteria were used to damage the leg and cause infection. After the damage to the leg was obvious, Sulfa would be used to heal the wound. Bone grafts and even leg amputation and transplants were attempted in these gruesome experiments. These women were mutilated. Those who didn’t die from infection were left disabled. The doctor doing these experiments was the only female doctor in any of the camps. Her name was Herta Oberheuser.

The women were referred to as the Ravensbruck Rabbits because after the surgeries, they would hop around the camp on their good leg and because they were treated like lab animals. The other prisoners protected these women. They risked their own lives by hiding the Rabbits, and even switching ID numbers with them.

The story of the Ravensbruck Rabbits is told in detail in Lilac Girls, a New York Times best seller, written by Martha Hall Kelly. In 1958, over a decade after the survivors were liberated from the camp, they were flown to the United States to receive treatment.

Racial experiments were conducted on several groups of people considered inferior by Nazi doctors. Dr. Josef Mengele is infamous for his horrendous treatment on twins of Jewish and Gypsy descent, as well as on dwarves. His “research” was focused on the genetic component of disease.

Dr. Mengele was also fascinated by people with different colored eyes, a condition known as heterochromia. He was known to keep the eyeballs of the patients with that condition, in order to do further testing on eye pigmentation.

Other experiments done on prisoners included artificial insemination, drinking exclusively sea water, and exposure to phosgene gas, a chemical used in WWI. The rationale behind these stories of horror were either to improve the health and stability of German soldiers, or to find a way to create a more “perfect” race.

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Nuremberg Trial

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Dr. Josef Mengele

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Herta Oberheuser receives her sentence

Outcome

The Nuremburg Trials, named after the town in Germany where the trials were held, were held between 1945-1949. Leaders from the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union brought to trial perpetrators of the most heinous acts ever committed. There were three categories of charges: Crimes Against Peace, War Crimes, and Crimes Against Humanity.

The Doctors Trial was conducted by United States military personnel. Twenty-three Nazi doctors and officers were tried. All defendants were found guilty. Seven were sentenced to death by hanging. Five were sentenced to life in prison. The remaining four, including Herta Oberheuser, were sentenced to 10-20 year terms in prison. Oberheuser only served five years of her term, she was released and began practicing as a pediatrician.

The incredible bravery of the Ravensbruck Rabbits did not end with their release from the concentration camp. Several of them testified again Oberheuser at the Nuremburg trials. Several years later, one of the survivors played a part in getting Oberheuser’s medical license permanently revoked.

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Ravensbruck Rabbit survivor at trials

The Nuremburg trials were successful in holding these deranged people accountable for their crimes. The trials had another positive outcome: the Nuremburg Code of Ethics. The code requires that human beings must agree to any medical experiments, can choose to quit the experiment at any time, and that no experiments can cause unnecessary suffering.

As horrendous as this piece of history is, it is important that we never forget the millions of people killed in concentration camps in WWII. More important still, is to remember the tenacity and spirit of people like the Ravensbruck Rabbits. No doubt, countless acts of bravery and kindness were shown by the prisoners of the camps. Some of those people survived to tell their story. Sadly, most of them did not.

Learn more about one of the survivors who is the focus of a documentary in progress.

References

marthahallkelly.com Author of Lilac Girls

elizabethwein.com shows the pictures of the real Ravensbruck Rabbits

rememberravensbruck.com Support the making of the documentary and see a survivor

PBS to learn more about the experiments

History Channel to learn more about the Nuremburg Trials

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

 

 

 

Forget STEM. How are you with ketchup?

Aside from pictures, there is nothing that shows a true snapshot of an era than advertisements. An ad is a freeze frame of the clothes, trends, and societal norms of that moment in history. The ads below are from the 50’s. Women had a very different place in society at that time. We may look at these ads now with laughter and, for some, disgust. That is because we are looking at them through the norms of today, not 1950. Although this sexist behavior was accepted in the 50’s, I am sure there was a great deal of eye rolling by the women reading these ads.

Newly available household appliances eased some of the work involved in running a home. I’m not sure which aspect of the ads is most enjoyable; the attire used in cleaning, the obvious example of, “women’s work”, or the incredible joy brought by a mop. I know, its the heels.

 

In case the earlier ads were too subtle, these clearly state that it’s a man’s world and the state of any marriage is dependent upon the wife’s cooking ability. If the woman on the left were any more subservient, she’d be under the bed. Other things could wreck a marriage in the 50’s. Ladies, don’t let yourself go. Your marriage and worth as a human being depend on it. In case you can’t see it clearly, the middle ad is for Lysol for “feminine hygiene.” Really? Lysol?

And last but not least, I would like to share a couple of ads I hope will make you chuckle. Oh Sabrina. Double entendre anyone? We’ve come a long way, baby!

 

Rosie the Riveter Takes Her Place in History

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Rosie the Riveter is an American icon. And she is finally getting her due. Or should I say getting their due? Rosie was not based on one woman, but on the hundreds of thousands of women who stepped up to replace the labor force lost to men fighting overseas during WWII.

In 1943, Norman Rockwell painted the first “Rosie” for The Saturday Evening Post. The most common jobs women filled were in aircraft and munitions. The name Rosie the Riveter came from the rivets used to assemble metal used in airplanes and tanks. She can be seen holding her riveting gun in Rockwell’s depiction. file0001339162898

Several stories popped up about “real” Rosies. Mary Doyle Keefe was the model used for the painting. She posed for Rockwell twice and made a handsome $10 for her trouble. Ironically, Keefe was never a riveter, but a telephone operator.

The image most of us think of when we hear Rosie’s name was painted by J. Howard Miller. He painted Rosie with the words, “We Can Do It” behind her for the Westinghouse War Production Coordinating Committee. The poster was meant to recruit women into the workforce. The poster was only used for a brief time and didn’t gain popularity until the later part of the 20th century, when Rosie became a symbol of feminism and women’s rights.

But feminism was not on the minds of the women who went to work between 1943-1945. They worked to support the war, their country, and their families. Many of them had no choice. With their husbands, fathers and sons overseas, the work needed to get done, and it was up to the women to financially support their families. There is no doubt, however, that the “riveters” of WWII changed the way women were viewed, especially in the workplace. It was the first time women were considered capable of doing “men’s work”.

So why has the image painted by Miller surpassed Rockwell’s in popularity? Very simple. Rockwell’s painting had a copyright and Miller’s did not.

On October 18, 2017, Rosie the Riveter will firmly take her place in history as she is inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame. Several women worked at the Willow Run Bomber Plant in Michigan in the 1940’s. Most of the women who influenced the making of Rosie are gone now. But the impact they had on the country, the war, and women’s rights lives on.

Sources:

Heidi A. Strobel. “Rosie the Riveter, Rose Will Monroe, and Rose Bonavita.” American National Biography Online Feb 2000. July 3 2017. http://www.anb.org/articles/20/20-01920.html

“Rosie the Riveter.” History 2012. Publisher A&E. July 3 2017.  http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/rosie-the-riveter

Caitlin Schneider.  “Meet the Real Rosie the Riveter.” Mental Floss May 2015. July 3 2017. http://mentalfloss.com/article/63646/meet-real-rosie-riveter

“Rosie the Riveter to be inducted into Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.” Detroit Free Press June 28 2017. July 3 2017  http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2017/06/28/rosie-riveter-michigan-womens-hall-fame/436948001/

Dave Collins. “Model for Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter painting dies at 92.” MSN April 22 2015. July 4 2017. http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/model-for-rockwells-rosie-the-riveter-painting-dies-at-92/ar-AAbwzsj