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Nov 16

BALLOON LIFE vs WILDLIFE – Who Will Survive?

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BALLOON LIFE vs WILDLIFE – Who Will Survive?

Answers From New Research In Response To A Reader’s Challenge.

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Resource Center for “Making Things, Making Success & Making A Difference With Balloons”™.
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Photo of Graham Rouse

If preliminary conclusions from this new, independent research prove out, then the choice between “Balloon Life  or  Wildlife ?” will seem irrelevant.  It will have been shown that both kinds of life can survive amicably. People like you and me, who hold “biases” in favor of one form of life or the other will  be able to shift attention to more serious threats to our favorites.”

Graham Rouse

 

 

[1]  THE CHALLENGE:

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BALLOON LIFE VS WILDLIFE
It seems that there are still many people who see balloons as a threat to wildlife.  They often want to kill off part of balloon life (latex balloon releases) in order to save the part of wildlife that might ingest balloon remains. One such person recently wrote in to Making It With Balloons Network.  Her comments, questions and challenge were spurred by this earlier article on MIWB.net:  “Of Ball Games And Balloon Releases“.  Her full text is included below.

Our response follows her comments and includes preliminary results from new, independent research at Clemson University, Clemson, SC USA.

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AMIE KOPORC
Amie Koporc wrote the following comments and questions in response to an earlier article by Graham Rouse about balloon releases as part of the pregame show at Clemson University, Clemson, SC USA football games.

How do you know the environmental costs are small? What is your definition of small? Only a few dead animals? What if some of those animals are endangered? Clemson U’s own research (http://www.clemson.edu/academics/programs/creative-inquiry/projects/spotlight/balloon-release.html ) shows “that up to 81 percent of a balloon is left intact and in large pieces. Larger pieces are thought to take longer to degrade and are potentially more dangerous to animals.”Even if I accept your point that a balloon degrades at the rate of an oak leaf (6 months) that still poses a huge risk to wildlife.

I also question your statement that “experts have chosen the magic of balloons to build positive associations between us and them.” Who is us? The aforementioned “experts?” Who are those “experts” anyway? Student services? Do they have a background in marine biology, environmental studies, or veterinary medicine?

I think your thoughts are biased based on your vested interest as a balloon vendor.
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[2]   THE RESPONSE

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THANKS AMIE
Thanks for your comments Amie.

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COMMENDABLE CONCERNS
It is clear that you are concerned about wildlife and want them to survive in the wild and to be safe from human harm. That is commendable.  At least, I think so.  There are others who are eager to eliminate all the “pesky” or “dangerous” wildlife.  They would think that you and I are biased in favor of the wildlife and biased against the best interest of humans.

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BIAS
It is also true, as you suggest, that I am biased in favor of the survival of the balloon industry and want it to be safe from human and animal harm.  The bias I hold for the balloon industry, however, is a lot like the bias I hold for wildlife and the bias I have held for many years in favor of my children. Other things being equal; I tend to give favor, trust, time, money, faith, etc. to my children, to my industry and to the wildlife that share this planet.
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THE BIGGER PICTURE
Things are rarely equal, however, and much too often the things I favor come into conflict with one another or, at least, compete for that favor, trust, time, money, faith etc..   I try to look at the bigger picture, to consider the evidence at hand and to examine the credibility of sources.
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FURTHER INVESTIGATION
When one of my children came home with a black eye or a note from the teacher, my first inclination was to believe my child.  This did not stop me from investigating further, however.  Most of the time my faith in my child was vindicated.  Other times they earned additional punishment.

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INDEPENDENT RESEARCH
Some weeks ago I heard about the ongoing study at Clemson University that is referenced in the article to which you gave a link.  I like the idea of independent research.  I made inquiries and Stephane Irwin, the Phd candidate leading the study, recently gave me a phone call.

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BALLOON CHUNKS
He did confirm that while helium filled balloons that reach high altitudes can shatter as reported in earlier research, he found it normal for relatively large chunks of the balloons to return to the ground. And, as you mention, it would be normal for large pieces of latex to take longer to biodegrade than smaller pieces.  I do not recall him suggesting any evidence, however, that these larger pieces of latex present a significant danger to wildlife.

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BALLOON APPETIZER
Apparently, and this is my inference from my conversation with Stephane , wildlife do not find balloons any more attractive to eat than other materials in their environment.  If some small animal tried to eat a large piece of latex, they might choke on it.  If some small animal tried to eat a large oak leaf they might choke on it. I have not heard of evidence that either is likely to happen.

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SPIT IT OUT
As you suggest, I am not a specialist in wildlife, marine biology, etc.; but I imagine that if a small animal did bite into a piece of latex, a leaf or most anything else that was too large to swallow safely it would probably spit it out.  I am sure this is not always the case.  Even supposedly smart animals like humans sometimes choke on their food.  But, I have not heard or seen evidence that latex balloons are more attractive to ingest or more likely to choke wildlife.

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GUNNER POPPED BALLOONS
My own, very limited, experience was with a cat we had for about 16 years.  Gunner was her name. She seemed to enjoy her attempts to pop balloons.  She was usually unsuccessful with her bite and often successful with her claws. But, I never saw her try to eat the remains.

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LATEX SOUP
Stephane did have quite a lot to say about what happens to balloons eaten by the birds, fish and turtles he tested.

(1)  First, he fed them pieces that were sizes normal for these creatures to eat.
(2)   Second, the birds and the fish passed the latex through their digestive systems
without creating any blockage.
(3)   Third, tests, I think blood tests, on the creatures showed no signs of stress that
would normally be evident if they were made sick or harmed in other ways by the balloon pieces.
(4)   Fourth, turtles tested still had balloon residue in their digestive systems after
two weeks, but the type turtles tested can take up to 30 days to pass food through
their systems, so this part of the project is unfinished.
(5)   Fifth, tests, I think blood tests, on these turtles showed no signs of stress that would
normally be evident if they were made sick or harmed in other ways by the balloon pieces.
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SHOW ME THE RESULTS
This research is ongoing.  It may yet turn up evidence of some significant harm or threat of harm to wildlife, but that appears unlikely.
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READ IT HERE
The project is scheduled to conclude in the spring of 2012. I have asked for permission to publish the results here on Making It With Balloons Network.  I hope to do that as soon as the project is finished and final results are made available.

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READ IT HERE
In the meanwhile, I have also requested permission to republish the article linked to your comments. Hopefully, that will be allowed and you will see it here soon.

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EXPERTS
You also had questions about my reference to experts who use balloon to build positive associations.  I was not thinking about “Student Services” at the university.  I was thinking about the highly paid public relations individuals and companies that produce balloon drops and releases for political conventions, large stadium events, big New Years Eve parties and the like.

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POSITIVE EXPERIENCE
I do not have hard data, but I find these balloon spectacles a positive experience.  The people I observe participating in them appear to be having a good time and enjoying the balloon show.  The fact that these kinds of productions continue to be repeated over the years, suggests to me that they are yielding positive results for the participants, the producers and the sponsors.

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28 YEARS
On a smaller scale, results from the events I have produced with balloons over the last 28 years reinforce my belief that balloon arts generally and balloon drops and releases in particular do build up positive associations between the producers/sponsors and the people who watch or participate in them.
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THE MAJORITY
The article to which you gave a link reports that a survey of people at a Clemson University football game revealed that, “a majority of fans believed Clemson’s pregame balloon release is important to the whole game-day experience”.

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[3]   THE SUMMARY

If preliminary conclusions from this new, independent research prove out, then the choice between “Balloon Life  or  Wildlife ?” will seem irrelevant.  It will have been shown that both kinds of life can survive amicably. People like you and me, who hold “biases” in favor of one form of life or the other will  be able to shift attention to more serious threats to our favorites.

RELATED LINKS
Of Ball Games And Balloon Releases —  Article by Graham Rouse on Making It With Balloons Network

The Balloon Release: Pregame Tradition or Wildgame Malnutrition  Article by Thomas Larrew in Clemson University’s Creative Inquiry Project Spotlight

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Thanks for reading/listening.  I am

Graham Rouse
Making It With Balloons Network
At http://miwb.net Your Resource Center For
“Making Things, Making Success & Making A Difference With Balloons”™.
© Graham Rouse 2011

1 comment

1 ping

  1. Normajean Price

    I love balloons but have wondered when I use them in parks, etc. about their impact. Your work has relieved many of my worries. Part of the problem with what I do is the clean-up that should ALWAYS be done after working with balloons or any other prop. If this is done properly by everyone who uses wildlife areas, both the animals and people, can enjoy the wonderful areas this country is blessed with. Thank you!

  1. OF BALL GAMES AND BALLOON RELEASES | Making It With Balloons - Network

    […] [Issues around the pregame release of balloons are still alive and active in November 2011. Read more in this article on Making It With Balloons Network:  "Balloon Life vs Wildlife  –  Who Will Survive?"] […]

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