Drumming circles are a big part of Rainbow Family gatherings, but these neo-hippies take part in clean-ups, too.
Such misunderstandings have, unfortunately, been commonplace in the Rainbows' dealings with the outside world. After the 1996 gathering in the Mark Twain National Forest, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sniffed that “firewood was provided by mother nature, and so were the toilet facilities.” Part of the problem is the Rainbows' refusal to seek permits. Another is the bills they sometimes leave local officials, such as the $60,000 it cost Missouri hospitals to deal with a bacteria infection at the Mark Twain camp. Rainbow cars sometimes tear up the landscape when they're illegally parked, and then there's the dogs. After the 1998 gathering in Oregon, 100 were left behind.
Everyone agrees that a lot of progress has been made. Meagan Boltwood, a former Forest Service intern, says she helped clean up a huge mess the group left behind in 1994. But these days, a few hundred Rainbows stay behind, backfill latrines, replant native grasses, break up hardened ground and attempt to return the site to its natural state.
This summer, the Rainbow Gathering will be in the Allegheny National Forest of Pennsylvania, but details are scarce—because the celebrants like it that way. “Our fear is that the gathering will become total chaos,” says one longtime celebrant. “There are no leaders of Rainbow, and what we have can't easily be classified, catalogued or referenced.”
Conservation Tag…You're It
When Adelita, an endangered loggerhead sea turtle, swam the Pacific Ocean this past year from Baja to Japan, thousands of students across the country cheered her on. They were able to follow her journey, from start to finish, thanks to satellite telemetry and the World Wide Web.
High-tech tracking in the name of conservation has become common practice for wildlife biologists across the globe. Radio and satellite transmitters are now being implanted or attached to species ranging from eagles and tuna to caribou and manatees. “The days of doing biology by sitting on a rock with a pair of binoculars are over,” says Daniel Mulcahy, wildlife veterinarian with the Alaska Biological Science Center (ABSC).
Over the years, transmitters have gotten smaller and designs more efficient. But not everyone sees this as progress. Captain Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, cites one scientist tagging a gray whale in Neah Bay, Washington by extracting more than 30 plugs of tissue from it. “The cases we've observed have demonstrated that tagging is an over and over again process that causes undo harassment of animals for very little result.”
“Everyone's trying to improve and work toward least-invasive methods,” counters J. Nichols, the researcher behind Adelita's historic journey, the first to document the migratory path of loggerheads. Mulcahy agrees, asserting human interaction is already pervasive without scientific research, and tagging data, he says, may demonstrate how to minimize that contact. &#
8220;If it was a perfect world, none of us would have to do anything.”
Besides location, transmitters can be designed to collect sensory data, such as when a polar bear enters and leaves its den, whether an arctic fox has spent a lot of time resting or running, or how long and deep a seal has been diving. David Douglas, wildlife researcher for the ABSC, says such knowledge gives field biologists valuable insight into the behavior of animals where direct observation is otherwise impossible.
“If what we're doing effects [an animal's] behavior than our work is meaningless,” says Andrew Read, associate professor at Duke University's Marine Laboratory. Read is trying to determine where the range of harbour porpoises, the species with the highest bycatch rate of any marine mammal in the U.S., may overlap with fishing activity. “When dealing with highly mobile animals that cross international boundaries and travel thousands of miles, there's simply no other way of getting this kind of info.”
California researchers tag a Northern elephant seal. Is the knowledge gained worth hassling the animals with tranquilizer guns and skin implants?
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