Hangin' with Pandy Pollution

About the author: When not wearing a big, fuzzy giant panda costume, Aaron Ferster is the science writer-editor for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. This is his first entry for Greenversations.

I knew I was in for an interesting day when my boss looked me over and asked: “How tall are you?” “Five-foot-eleven,” I replied, wondering how height might play into my next performance evaluation.

“Perfect! There’s a big box waiting for you in shipping. It’s your costume for the Pollution Prevention Week table we’re setting up outside the Metro. Dress light. I’m told it’s hot in that panda suit.” Thus began my life as Pandy Pollution, EPA’s spokes-panda. Thanks boss!

Pandy Pollution and Dr. George Gray of ORD

Pandy’s goal for Earth Day was to lure people over to EPA’s display table where they could help themselves to the brochures, pamphlets, coloring books, and other environmental education materials on “going green.”

The boss was right about one thing: it was hot in there. Even dressed in gym shorts and a tee-shirt, I started roasting as soon as I slipped into the panda suit. But if you want to attract attention, going out dressed as overstuffed panda character is just the ticket. Just about everyone coming off the metro came in for a closer inspection, and plenty of folks picked up educational materials. Some even stayed to chat with the coterie of EPA experts hanging around the table. Mission accomplished.

Playing panda is a great way to help spread the word about safeguarding the environment and protecting human health. Now, it seems, real giant pandas and other wild critters play an even bigger role. There is growing scientific evidence that there is a connection between the decline in the diversity of wildlife and the emergence and spread of certain diseases.

EPA scientists are working with colleagues around the globe to better understand the link between biological diversity—the variety of species of plants, animals, and other living things that make up natural ecosystems—and emerging infectious diseases such as Lyme disease and malaria. What the scientists learn will help EPA and other agencies share important information about protecting human health. Someday soon, there might even be a stack of brochures about the subject available at the EPA Earth Day display just outside the metro entrance. If you’re interested in stopping by, just look for the 5-foot-11-inch-tall giant panda—and be sure to tell Pandy I say hello.

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