Infographic: The Tree of Life – Human Evolution Put in Perspective

Life on Earth is one big extended family


Tree of Life - Human evolution in perspective

click on the graphic above for a larger view

Based on the work of Dr. Richard Dawkins in his book The Ancestor’s Tale, this Tree of Life infographic from colorfully demonstrates the evolutionary relationships of life on Earth.

Leonard Eisenberg, a retired oil industry geologist, developed the site as a volunteer project for his children’s schools to help teachers educate their students about evolution. He created the infographic to counter the creationist themes he saw creeping into basic scientific curriculums. According to a 2011 survey conducted by Penn State University, 59 percent of teachers are wary of teaching evolution in the classroom for fear of the controversy it provokes. Worse still, another 13 percent of teachers dismiss evolution altogether, teaching their students intelligent design or creationism in their classrooms.

“I run into this even when teaching about Earth history, how life and the planet have changed through time,” Eisenberg recently told Business Insider. “By emphasizing the ‘family’ aspect of evolution, in a fun way with attractive art, EvoGeneao makes evolution less scary, more ‘family’ friendly, and easier for students to understand and teachers to teach.”

As Eisenberg explains on his website, the Tree of Life infographic is based on a human perspective, designed to give a simplified, yet insightful, picture of how life has evolved – and is evolving – on Earth:

This Tree of Life is drawn from the human, mammalian point of view. That is why humankind, instead of some other organism, occupies a branch tip at the end of the tree, and why our vertebrate cousins (animals with a backbone) occupy a large part of the tree. This falsely suggests that humans are the ultimate goal of evolution. In fact, if that asteroid or comet that hit the earth 65 million years ago and helped wipe out the dinosaurs, had instead missed the Earth, there might not be a dominant, tool-using, space-faring species on earth. Or if one evolved, it might be a dinosaur, not a mammal.

The biggest lesson, Eisenberg says, is that all life on Earth is “one big extended family!”

EarthTalk: The Postal Service Reduces Its Carbon Footprint

EarthTalk® is a weekly environmental column made available to our readers from the editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

US Postal Service makes strides in greening its operation and reducing its carbon footprintDear EarthTalk: What’s the latest with the U.S. Postal Service trying to reduce its environmental footprint? Starting delivery of some mail on Sundays doesn’t seem like a step in the right direction.  — Kerry Rawlings, Albany, NY

As recent TV ads have been telling us, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has recently started delivering some mail on Sunday in what most chalk up to an effort to stay one step ahead of United Parcel Service (UPS) and Federal Express (Fedex). But while Sunday delivery may be convenient for consumers, environmental leaders worry that adding an extra day causes an unnecessary waste of fuel and carbon emissions. Though this service has been implemented too recently for any concrete statistics on its increase of greenhouse gas emissions, the USPS has several other initiatives already in process that can, at the very least, perhaps help to offset the environmental impact of this new increase.

Recycling, one of the familiar poster-children of the green movement, has become a true priority at the USPS in recent years. In 2012, USPS saved over 250,000 tons of paper, cans and plastic waste. In the lobbies of local post offices are over 22,000 recycling bins for those looking to dispose of any paper products. These same offices also offer eco-friendly envelopes, boxes made from recycled materials, and stamps that make use of a biodegradable adhesive.

Another important environmental initiative of USPS is its Return for Good program which facilitates recycling of stuff besides paper. Under the program, USPS collects expired prescription drugs, small electronics, empty ink cartridges and even fluorescent lamps. This program recovered approximately 172,000 pounds of unused pharmaceuticals in 2012. Recyclers can save themselves a trip to the post office to turn in recycled items by scheduling a pickup from the trucks already driving nearby 6-7 days/week. USPS even offers cash back on some newer electronics devices.

There are also efforts to reduce the impact of the large fleet of postal delivery trucks. According to the article, “Greener Delivery?” in the Harvard Gazette, the USPS has begun the process of replacing 180,000 of its trucks with more eco-friendly alternatives. The recognizable boxy mail trucks seem to be a thing of the past, as a January proposal suggested several design alterations to enhance efficiency and reduce emissions from the current rate of 9 miles per gallon. In addition to changes to the traditional truck, there are already around 42,000 alternative-fuel vehicles in the USPS fleet, most of them using ethanol as a fuel source. There are also electric, natural gas and bio-diesel trucks.

Of course, another way USPS is trying to reduce its environmental impact is to cut out consumers trips—and the emissions entailed—to the post office. Consumers can now print out pre-paid labels to simply attach to packages. By scheduling a pickup from your home, the mailman who passes every day will pick up your package and begin the delivery process.

Two other important programs can help reduce consumers’ environmental footprint. If you are going out of town, go to and put your mail on hold until you return, eliminating unnecessary deliveries to your house. And alerting USPS when you move will also stop extraneous deliveries to your old abode.

While USPS may never be able to be as green as the beast that is killing it, e-mail, at least it is making strides in the right direction, even if you do get packages on Sundays.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine.

Eco News Roundup: Green Energy Tips; Tiny Houses; Green Space; Eco Apps

Eco News Roundup for June 26: Resources from around the world to help live a more eco-friendly lifestyle

This week features tips for adopting green energy in your home. How about the new trend toward “tiny houses” and living off-grid? Learn how physical and mental health improves with access to green spaces. Finally, we look at 13 apps you can use to help you lower your carbon footprint. Enjoy and please leave any suggestion for next week’s roundup in the comments section. Enjoy!

Go Green by Switching to a Green Energy Plan and by Following These 10 TipsTips for Green Energy

Over the past few years, many residential energy consumers from all over the globe have been considering taking a more eco-friendly approach to their home electricity consumption. Taking a truly green approach to energy consumption means taking the time to shop for a plan that uses renewable resources and by making changes to your everyday lifestyle in an effort to incorporate more eco-friendly practices.

Go Green by Switching to a Green Energy Plan and by Following These 10 Tips3 Tiny Houses That Let You Live Green—and off the Grid

The tiny-house fad appears to be here to stay, fetishized in a stream of articles and fueled by a fascination with living a less materialistic lifestyle. Companies like Tumbleweed Tiny Houses, Sprout, and Wheelhaus are more than happy to make this downsizing dream a reality, offering a myriad of micro-models that provide fodder for get-away-from-it-all fantasies.


Go Green by Switching to a Green Energy Plan and by Following These 10 TipsPeople don’t just need social housing, they need green spaces close by

It’s the time of year when we’re exhorted by Sunday supplements to enjoy al fresco living, the restorative benefits of the great outdoors. But what if you can’t? Access to green space – for leisure, for exercise, for social contact – is one of the many things that marks out the haves and have-nots in society. The amount and quality of public green space is disproportionately weighted in favour of the wealthy. The last meaningful research on the subject, the 2010 report Urban Green Nation, by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, provided clear evidence that people living in more disadvantaged areas or from more marginalised communities had fewer good quality parks and gardens near to where they live and used them less often than people living in more affluent areas.  Click here to view original web page at

Go Green by Switching to a Green Energy Plan and by Following These 10 Tips13 Green Apps For Environmentalists Who Want To Track Their Carbon Footprint

Remembering to live green can go further than setting a reminder to put out the recycling, buying organic, and saving all your peelings for compost. Apps for environmentalists, it turns out, are actually a new frontier for green lifestyle, both for sustainable crusaders with all their local organic food stalls memorized, and those of us who’ve just woken up to the whole living-green thing. In case revamping your life to get a bit more eco-friendly seems overwhelming and difficult, no worries: there’s an app for that. And, luckily, it’s probably served without any sanctimony.

Eco News Roundup: Extroverts and Green; Eating Smart; Floor Tiles Produce Energy; Green Lit; Open Space and Brain Development

Extroverts Are Found Least Likely To Be \'Living Green,\' New Study Says

Extroverts Are Found Least Likely To Be ‘Living Green,’ New Study Says

Extroverts were found to be the least likely group to adopt a green lifestyle in a new study. Extroverts are the least likely to adopt a green lifestyle, according to new research from the University of Portsmouth Business School.The study examined people over the age of 50 to try and see if personality type affects how green a person actually is. The results concluded that those who had “open” personalities were the most green and extroverts were the least. The study’s findings, published in the journal Futures, by study authors Sianne Gordon-Wilson and Pratik Modi, call for greater attempts by government and advertisers to step up green education for aging people. […]

Click here to view original web page at

Our Food FootpringLIVING GREEN: Our food footprint: Eating smart – and softly

When I was growing up, it seemed pretty easy to eat healthily: Eat your veggies, an apple a day keeps the doctor away and an egg a day was OK.

Attending a Climate Change Changes Me hosted talk by Earthsave Canada, however, revealed that the largest part of our ecological footprint (the amount of natural resources an individual, community, or country consumes in a given year) is what we eat: our “food footprint.”

Having been given the inspiring cookbook Meatless Mondays a few years ago, I thought all I really needed to do was eat less meat.

But there’s more to it…  Click here to view original web page at

Floor tiles that produce energy with every step‘We dreamed up floor tiles that generate energy with every step’: Could you come up with a green start-up idea and get a £5k helping hand?

How many steps do all the people in a city take each day? That may sound like a question from a weird job interview but one entrepreneur believes it could actually be the key to the future of green energy.

Laurence Kemball-Cook’s renewable energy brainchild Pavegen has created floor tiles that generate energy when people step on them. They have been installed in parts of Heathrow airport and the giant Westfield shopping centre and now he wants to spread them around cities across the world.

His company is part of a boom in environmentally-friendly start-ups, as the world attempts to come up with alternative energy solutions.

Green lit: Taking green living to heartGreen lit: Ben Vaughn talks going green in heart and home

In the entertainment industry, a project has been green lit when it has been approved by the powers that be to move forward past an idea to a reality be it a feature film, TV show, album or literary work.

In our current day and age, “green” has come to have a very different meaning, referring to humanity’s attempt to diminish or limit its carbon footprint(s).

I am aware that families are now attempting to become “green lit” in their own way, moving forward to find sustainable ways to provide for their needs while limiting the impact of those needs on the environment.

Green spaces help child brain development - image credit: Capture Queen, courtesy flcikr‘Green Space’ at School May Help Kids Learn

MONDAY, June 15, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Children’s thinking skills may develop faster if they encounter “green space” such as parks and woods in their day-to-day lives, a new study suggests.

Green space at school, in particular, was linked to improved brain development among schoolchildren in Spain.

“Children at schools with more green space around them, such as trees, shrubs and grass, have a better brain development than children at schools with less green space,” said study co-author Mark Nieuwenhuijsen of the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona.

“It is important to have green space within and around the school grounds for better brain development,” he added.

Pope Francis: Encyclical Calls for “All People of Good Will” to Care for Our Common Home

A version of this post first appeared on

Pope Francis call on all people of good will to care for the EarthAt a time when the influence of institutional religion is waning in many part of the world, Pope Francis remains one of the most trusted and popular people on Earth. Leader of an estimated 1.2 billion Catholics across the world, Francis has put the weight of his authority squarely behind a global call to action to stop what he calls “the ecological crisis” we all now face.

Typically, a Papal Encyclical issued by the Pope is a top-level teaching document addressed to Catholics. In recent decades encyclicals have been addressed to “all people of goodwill,” and Francis’ latest Laudato Si (Blessed Be) is one such document.

“This encyclical is aimed at everyone” the Pope said before the Encyclical’s release. “Let us pray that everyone can receive its message and grow in responsibility toward the common home that God has entrusted to us.”

Pope Francis consulted for months with a range of leading experts on environmental and climate issues, many from the Pontifical Academy of Sciences which includes 80 of the world’s top scientists from 36 countries. Members of the Academy have won 48 Nobel Prizes to date. In the past several years, the Academy has commissioned extensive research on climate and sustainability, among them Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene in 2011, Sustainable Humanity, Sustainable Nature: Our Responsibility in 2014 and Climate Change and the Common Good in 2015.

The Pontiff himself studied chemistry, holding a “título” in chemistry, he worked for a time as a chemist before entering the seminary. The term “titulo” refers to a “secondary” degree but is not the level of a Masters degree widely reported in the press earlier this month. Not that it matters that much, since his job as a moral leader is to interpret into moral and ethical terms what the research from expert scientists reveal.

One of the leading scientific experts consulting with Pope Francis is Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, founder and head of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and chief environmental advisor to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. 

Raised as a Lutheran in a small German town, Schellnhuber praised Pope Francis’ desire to reach beyond his Catholic followers. In an interview with the New York Times, Schellnhuber spoke of the “hard lesson” scientists have learned as they’ve worked to communicate the “facts and data” about global warming. The current climate change narrative has “not been enough to move the public to action,” Schellnhuber said. These issues “have become so serious that only a broad moral awakening can offer hope of solving them.”

“We have pushed the planet into a major environmental crisis, so creation is at stake,” Dr. Schellnhuber said.

For the most part, Pope Francis aligned himself with the scientific consensus that recent global warming is caused by human activity, principally from burning fossil fuels and deforestation. He maintained that natural causes, such as volcanoes and solar irradiation have had some impact on recent climate change, attributing “most” global warming from human activity.

To this point some climatologists take issue. Michael Mann, a leading climate scientists and researcher from Pennsylvania State University, said that solar changes and volcanoes have actually “counteracted” global warming.

“Human activity is most likely responsible not just for ‘most global warming’ but all of it,” said Dr. Mann. “And then some, because natural factors have been acting slightly in the other direction.”

But in all, Pope Francis laid a meticulous scientific framework for his moral call to stem the destruction of the planet, urging all people, in particular the world’s most privileged, to reconsider their relationship with nature.

Pope Francis Climate Encyclical – some main points

Among the encyclical’s key points:

  • Climate change is real, it’s impacts are already clearly visible, and has dire consequences if left unabated “Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost forever. Climate change is global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, political and the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day”
  • Poor nations least responsible for global warming suffer some of the worst conseuqueces
    “The warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world, especially Africa, where a rise in temperature, together with drought, has proved devastating for farming. There is also damage caused by the export of solid waste and toxic liquids to developing countries, and by the pollution produced by companies which operate in less developed countries in ways they could never do at home.”
  • Many Christians misinterpret scripture in regard to their relationship with nature
    Christians “must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.””The creation accounts in the book of Genesis contain, in their own symbolic and narrative language, profound teachings about human existence and its historical reality. They suggest that human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbor and with the Earth itself.””It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians, with the excuse of realism and pragmatism, tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment.”
  • Access to safe water is a human right, not a commodity
    “Even as the quality of available water is constantly diminishing, in some places there is a growing tendency, despite its scarcity, to privatize this resource, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market. Yet access to safe, drinkable water is a basic and universal human right.”
  • Consumerism run amok is not sustainable
    “People may well have a growing ecological sensitivity but it has not succeeded in changing their harmful habits of consumption which, rather than decreasing, appear to be growing all the more.”

Undoubtedly, the Pope’s Encyclical makes many conservatives in the U.S., Catholic and non-Catholic alike, uncomfortable. Taking the moral high ground from one of the most popular spiritual leaders on the planet will prove difficult. As it should.

Moral leadership on climate change and environmental stewardship from all faith traditions is sorely needed.

Read the full Encyclical On Care for our Common Home


Image credit: Ateleia Image Department, courtesy flickr