May 22, 2022 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

EarthTalk:

Dear EarthTalk: How are populations of the world’s orca whales faring these days? Are we still in danger of losing them all in the wild?

The largest member of the dolphin family and a major draw at marine parks, orcas (also known as “killer whales”) are highly intelligent and social marine mammals that, because of these traits, have come to be known as ambassadors for nature and marine ecosystems around the world.

But the fact that people love orcas—most of us ever see them in captivity—has no bearing on how well they are thriving in the wild. Many of their habits are still a mystery to science, as the great black and white creatures, which can grow to 26 feet and weight six tons, are fast-moving and difficult to track (they are the most widely distributed mammals on Earth, besides humans).

Given this uncertainty, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a nonprofit group that maintains a frequently updated global list (the so-called “Red List”) of endangered and threatened wildlife, merely lists the status of orcas as “data deficient.” IUCN is currently involved in an assessment of orca populations around the world to determine what their status should be.

Orcas may not have a clear-cut conservation status internationally, but the U.S. government is concerned enough about the animals that ply the waters of Washington’s Puget Sound and San Juan Islands (known as the “southern residents”) to put them on the federal endangered species list. Chief among threats to orcas there is loss of food supply, mostly West Coast salmon populations destroyed by hydroelectric dams and other human encroachment. Habitat loss, chemical pollution, captures for marine mammal parks and conflicts with fisheries have also each played roles in the decline of the Northwest’s orcas.

According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, an arm of the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the southern resident orca population—the best studied wild animal population in the world—has fluctuated considerably since researchers began studying it in earnest some three decades ago. In 1974 the group was comprised of 71 whales, but then spiked to 97 animals by 1996. But since then the population fell below 80 and has remained around that level ever since.

Due to their voracious appetites and their place at the top of the ocean food chain, orcas are very susceptible to pollution and chemicals and suffer from diseases and reproductive disorders accordingly. For this reason many scientists consider orcas an “indicator species” regarding the health of marine ecosystems in general. That is, if orcas are in decline, the rest of the ocean is likely in big trouble, too.

Of course, increased concern about the health of marine ecosystems in recent years is good news for orcas, which are dependent on a wide range of fish and marine mammals for sustenance. The preponderance of protected stretches of both ocean and coasts gives orcas a boost in their struggle to stay one step ahead of extinction. If world leaders continue to value marine ecosystems and limit the extraction of seafood species and contamination by pollutants, killer whales will have a fighting chance to keep on as icons of the sea—and those of us onshore and bobbing on boats will continue to be delighted and amazed by them.

* * * *

Dear EarthTalk: Since Obama took office, have any new incentives been put in place for homeowners looking to increase energy efficiency and reduce the overall environmental footprints of their homes?

In fact, yes. Homeowners can get up to $1,500 back from the federal government for any number of energy efficiency upgrades at home. If you upgrade to energy efficient insulation, windows, doors, heating, air conditioning or water heaters between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2010, you are eligible for a tax credits of up to 30 percent of product costs.

The credit is capped at $1,500 combined; meaning it only applies to $5,000 in total costs. More details are available at the website of the Tax Incentives Assistance Project, a coalition of public interest nonprofit groups, government agencies and other organizations focused on energy efficiency.

Of course, the Obama administration is also thinking long term, and would like to leave its mark in furthering efforts to wean ourselves off foreign oil and increase our production and use of homegrown clean renewable energy. In light of such priorities, tax credits are also available for 30 percent of the cost—with no upper limit—on the installation of renewable energy equipment at home, such as geothermal heat pumps, solar panels, solar hot water heaters, small wind energy systems and fuel cells.

Homeowners won’t get the money back when they initially pay for equipment or upgrades, but they can add the credit amount to their overall tax refund, or deduct it from what they owe, when filing their federal income tax forms at the end of the year. Unlike tax deductions, which merely lower the total amount of taxable income, tax credits reduce dollar-for-dollar the amount of tax owed.

Homeowners should know that they can also get federally backed mortgages to pay for a variety of energy efficiency measures, including renewable energy technologies, on their new or existing homes. The federal government supports these loans by insuring them through the Federal Housing Authority or Veterans Affairs programs, allowing borrowers who might otherwise not qualify to pursue upgrades, and securing lending institutions against loan default.

Don’t own a home? Depending upon make and model, you can get between $250 and $3,400 back from the federal government for buying or leasing a new hybrid or high efficiency diesel automobile. And the automakers themselves—through their own “Automotive Stimulus Plan”—are giving consumers up to $4,500 back on the purchase of a new or used vehicle that gets gas mileage of at least two miles per gallon better than their old model.

A number of new energy-efficiency incentives are also available at the state level across the country. The Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy website provides up-to-date listings of what may be available in your neck of the woods. With so much encouragement, how could you not want to go green?

in News
Related Posts

Los Angeles Metro Sees 15.9 Percent Increase in Median Rent

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

Median rent of $2,258, according to recent report By Dolores Quintana The ongoing pandemic has exacerbated the issues of housing...

New Renderings for Frank Gehry Hotel Development in Santa Monica

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

Project would include hotel, apartments, retail and a museum By Dolores Quintana Slowly but surely, plans for a  Frank Gehry-designed...

Shared Mobility Plummets in Santa Monica

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

Recent report also shows that nearly half of riders make over $100,000 By Sam Catanzaro Shared mobility use in Santa...

Christopher Dishlip Selected as Santa Monica’s New Assistant Director of Public Works

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

Public Works Director Rick Valte announced the selection of Christopher Dishlip as Santa Monica’s new Assistant Director of Public Works....

Letter to Editor: Response to Himmelrich’s “We Walk the Talk” Column

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

By Beau Marks As a Santa Monica resident, I am dismayed by Sue Himmelrich’s response (“We Walk the Talk,” Santa...

Motional And UberEats Launch Autonomous Deliveries In Santa Monica

May 18, 2022

May 18, 2022

There Are Plans For Expansion Into The Rest Of Los Angeles Motional, a global driverless technology leader, and Uber Technologies...

Winston Pies Opening Third Location In Santa Monica

May 18, 2022

May 18, 2022

The restaurant used to be known as ButterCrust Pies Winston Pies is staying in Santa Monica when opening their third...

Only 10 Vaquita Porpoises Survive, But The Species May Not Be Doomed

May 17, 2022

May 17, 2022

Hope remains for the porpoise species not only survive but thrive with human help. By Stuart Wolpert The vaquita porpoise,...

The American Cinematheque Brings “Bleak Week” To Santa Monica’s Aero Theatre And The Los Feliz Three Theatre

May 17, 2022

May 17, 2022

33 Films From 18 Countries In One Week. By Dolores Quintana Sometimes when things are tough and you’re feeling down,...

Man Who Murdered His Family Members Pleads Guilty To Five Other Killings

May 16, 2022

May 16, 2022

Escobar injured an additional seven other people as well.  By Dolores Quintana A man, Ramon Escobar, has pleaded guilty to...

The price of gasoline in Los Angeles County Has Experienced The Largest Increase Since February

May 16, 2022

May 16, 2022

Gasoline prices in Orange County Have Also Increased By Dolores Quintana Regular self-serve gasoline in the county of Los Angeles...

Santa Monica Travel Summit Of 2022 Returns To Take On Tomorrow

May 16, 2022

May 16, 2022

The Event Was Held At The Jonathan Club On Santa Monica Beach By Staff Writer The 2022 Santa Monica Tourism...

City Council Extends Santa Monica’s Parklet Program: Santa Monica Beat – May 16th, 2022

May 16, 2022

May 16, 2022

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes.* City Council Extends Santa Monica’s Parklet Program * Santa Monica High School Students...

1221 Ocean Avenue Complex Sold For Record Price

May 16, 2022

May 16, 2022

Sold for a record price of $330 million. By Dolores Quintana The Irvine Company has sold 1221 Ocean Avenue to...

Office Construction Is Starting To Rise In Los Angeles

May 15, 2022

May 15, 2022

Property vacancies are still affecting growth.  By Dolores Quintana In March, the Los Angeles Metropolitan area had 3.2 million square...