Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Can earthworms predict earthquakes?

Since "green gardeners", with healthy, nutritious soil, often have more earthworms, I wanted to post a question. Have you seen more earthworms than usual crawling around lately?

Earthquakes emerging to the surface are supposed to be a tell-tale sign that an earthquake (or a flood) might be on the way. At least, that's what some people think.

Dr. Ikeya at Osaka University has been studying earthworms and earthquakes. Ikeya’s laboratory experiments were conducted to see if exposure to an electrical field or electromagnetic pulses could elicit animal behavior similar to what has been reported prior to earthquakes. The results: fish showed panic reactions, and earthworms moved out of the soil and swarmed when current was applied.

When asked why he decided to study the relationship between earthworms and earthquakes, Ikeya said:

The Kobe earthquake in 1995. I live 30 km from the epicenter and thought it strange that many earthworms dug themselves up in my small garden. At the time, I did not know the legend that a number of emerging earthworms is a sign of a large earthquake. Many people noticed this, including my neighbors.


What about your pets or other critters? There are many theories that animals are more in tune with Mother Nature than humans. It's just something interesting to think about.

Here are some excerpts from an article on a U.S. Department of the Interior Website:

Rats, weasels, snakes, and centipedes reportedly left their homes and headed for safety several days befor a destructive earthquake. Anectdotal evidence abounds of animals, fish, birds, reptiles, and insects exhibiting strange behavior anywhere from weeks to seconds before an earthquake. However, consistent and reliable behavior prior to seismic events, and a mechanism explaining how it could work, still eludes us. Most, but not all, scientists pursuing this mystery are in China or Japan. 

We can easily explain the cause of unusual animal behavior seconds before humans feel an earthquake. Very few humans notice the smaller P wave that travels the fastest from the earthquake source and arrives before the larger S wave. But many animals with more keen senses are able to feel the P wave seconds before the S wave arrives. As for sensing an impending earthquake days or weeks before it occurs, that's a different story. 

A recent popular theory purports that there is a correlation between Lost Pet ads in the San Jose Mercury News and the dates of earthquakes in the San Francisco Bay area. A thorough statistical analysis of this theory, published in California Geology in 1988, concludes that there is no such correlation, however.


So what did you notice? Were your pets or critters acting strange before the quake?

Waste Not, Want Not - Curbside Composting

In my previous post, Do Environmentalists Need Shrinks, I mentioned how I am sometimes almost obsessive about planet polluters. This trait really rears its ugly head when I see the kind of things that people throw away. Good, usable furniture left at the curb for the garbage man to pick up, for instance, when a local thrift store would probably love to have it. Or a bin full of plastic garden pots thrown into the trash when local chain stores like Lowes and Home Depot will willingly take them and recycle them. And when I go to a party or picnic, it sometimes takes all of my will power to keep myself from poking through plastic-bag lined garbage bins to remove perfectly recyclable cans and bottles.

So far, I haven’t gotten bad enough to dig through anyone’s trash for things that would make good compost. And if Howard County, Maryland’s idea for curbside compost pickup takes off and is adopted by other jurisdictions, I may never have to.

Compost is such a wonderful thing for a garden, and almost any green food scrap, plant waste or paper product, can be utilized to help make this garden goodie. But it is estimated that, in 2009, over 33 million tons of food waste and 13 million tons of yard waste ended up in municipal landfills. (Source)

Although most “green gardeners” have learned to use their own waste products to create compost, what about the many people that don’t have a garden or want to deal with compost?

Howard County is looking for volunteer households in the Elkridge and Ellicott City areas to participate in their new food scrap collection pilot program! Participants will receive a special food scrap collection cart that will be emptied weekly on recycling day. Their list of items, which are acceptable to recycle, include a few things that surprised me, including bread and other baked goods and pizza boxes.

The collected food scraps will  eventually be composted and turned into a soil amendment. If successful, this program could reduce trash sent to the landfill in Howard County by 23%.

Another interesting fact that I read on their website (but never thought about before – I guess because we compost everything) is that composting food scraps is much better than using a garbage disposal for two reasons. 1) It saves water and 2) garbage disposal use sends excess nutrients that are expensive to treat to the wastewater treatment facilities.

If you live in Howard County, I urge you to support this program. For more information, visit the Food Scrap Recycling Page on the Howard County website.

Of course, DC area residents can have their own curbside composting through Compost Cab. Compost Cab will provide you with a bin, collect your organics and deliver them to a local urban farm for composting. There is an $8.00 per week charge for their services. BUT (and here's the really great thing) CompostCab will even help you recycle your compostable materials at parties, picnics, weddings and other special events!! With Compost Cab, I can once again attend parties angst free!

What’s in if for you? According to their website “Cleaner air. Less waste. A smaller carbon footprint. A greener home or business. A stronger community.”

And, of course, you don’t have to worry about me coming by and picking through your garbage.

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