By Drew Kann, CNN
The Southern Peruvian Amazon is considered one of the most important cradles of biodiversity left on Earth.
And as modern civilization seeps into even the most remote corners of the globe, the region is also home to some of the last "uncontacted" peoples left on the planet.
But its soils also contain traces of valuable gold, and a new analysis of satellite imagery shows that a rush to claim these riches poses grave threats to this pristine rainforest and its inhabitants. More details...
Burt’s Bees will partner with the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation to map 6,000 bee species worldwide, supporting one of the grandest conservation efforts of our time. The partnership was announced during the second annual Half-Earth Day celebration, this year held at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. With species extinction rates currently 1,000 times higher than any prior time in human history, the Burt’s Bees Foundation’s move to support pollinators through the lens of biodiversity comes at a critical juncture – particularly as bee populations, recognized as so-called “keystone species” which are central to many ecosystems worldwide, continue to decline...continue
By Achim Steiner
Achim Steiner: I think we have to worry a great deal. We are losing natural habitats and species. But we're also losing ecosystems every day on an unprecedented scale. These are the foundations of life on the planet. We need to understand the importance of an ecosystem, of a tree and even of a bee. We need to learn how our consumption patterns, how our economies and how our pollution contributes to the decline of these ecosystems...continue
HOW BIG DONORS AND CORPORATIONS SHAPE CONSERVATION GOALS
Published Jeremy Hance on 26 April 2016 Mongabay.com
HOW BIG DONORS AND CORPORATIONS SHAPE CONSERVATION GOALS
CONSERVATION TODAY, THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY
CONSERVATION'S PEOPLE PROBLEM
EPILOGUE: CONSERVATION STILL DIVIDED, LOOKING FOR A WAY FORWARD
BY CARL SAFINA • FEBRUARY 12, 2018
A number of biologists have recently made the argument that extinction is part of evolution and that saving species need not be a conservation priority. But this revisionist thinking shows a lack of understanding of evolution and an ignorance of the natural world... continue
“Sustainability” may be a worthy goal, but the word has become cliché, now typically deployed in its adverbial form to modify various nature-exploiting activities like “logging” and “fishing” or the catch-all “development.” Washington Post
"Each generation is normalizing the erosion of our environment, and the devastating losses to fragile ecosystems mount up."
What you see is not what others see. We inhabit parallel worlds of perception, bounded by our interests and experience. What is obvious to some is invisible to others. I might find myself standing, transfixed, by the roadside, watching a sparrowhawk hunting among the bushes, astonished that other people could ignore it. But they might just as well be wondering how I could have failed to notice the new V6 Pentastar Sahara that just drove past.
As the psychologist Richard Wiseman points out: “At any one moment, your eyes and brain only have the processing power to look at a very small part of your surroundings … your brain quickly identifies what it considers to be the most significant aspects of your surroundings, and focuses almost all of its attention on these elements.” Everything else remains unseen.
Our selective blindness is lethal to the living world. Joni Mitchell’s claim that “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” is, sadly, untrue: our collective memory is wiped clean by ecological loss. One of the most important concepts defining our relationship to the natural world is shifting baseline syndrome, coined by the fisheries biologist Daniel Pauly. The people of each generation perceive the state of the ecosystems they encountered in their childhood as normal and natural. When wildlife is depleted, we might notice the loss, but we are unaware that the baseline by which we judge the decline is in fact a state of extreme depletion.
#ActOnClimate #ClimateChange Full article.
New book out calculates cost of global damages from sea-level rise could reach $100 trillion a year by 2100. Full Article.
Improvements in DNA technology now make it possible for biologists to identify every living organism in and around a species. Scientists say this could have profound implications for everything from protecting amphibians from a deadly fungus to reintroducing species into the wild. Full article.
Overfishing and climate change are pushing some of the world’s most iconic seabirds to the brink of extinction, according to a new report.
The study reveals that kittiwakes and gannets are among a number of seabirds that have now joined the red list of under-threat birds drawn up by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Dr Ian Burfield, global science coordinator at Birdlife International which carried out the study for IUCN, said the threat to these birds pointed to a wider environmental challenge.
“Birds are well studied and great indicators of the health of the wider environment. A species at higher risk of extinction is a worrying alarm call that action needs to be taken now.”
The study found that overfishing and changes in the Pacific and north Atlantic caused by climate change have affected the availability of sand eels which black-legged kittiwakes feed on during the breeding season. Full article.
The world’s richest 1% (if your household has an income of £70,000 or more, this means you) produce about 175 times as much carbon as the poorest 10%. Full article.
“Sin taxes” on meat to reduce its huge impact on climate change and human health look inevitable, according to analysts for investors managing more than $4tn of assets.
The global livestock industry causes 15% of all global greenhouse gas emissions and meat consumption is rising around the world, but dangerous climate change cannot be avoided unless this is radically curbed. Furthermore, many people already eat far too much meat, seriously damaging their health and incurring huge costs. Livestock also drive other problems, such as water pollution and antibiotic resistance. Full article.
Recycling and using public transit are all fine and good if you want to reduce your carbon footprint, but to truly make a difference you should have fewer children. That’s the conclusion of a new study in which researchers looked at 39 peer-reviewed papers, government reports, and web-based programs that assess how an individual’s lifestyle choices might shrink their personal share of emissions.
Many commonly promoted options, such as washing clothes in cold water or swapping incandescent bulbs for light-emitting diodes, have only a moderate impact (see chart, below), the team reports today in Environmental Research Letters. But four lifestyle choices had a major impact: Become a vegetarian, forego air travel, ditch your car, and—most significantly—have fewer children. Full Article.
The problem? We currently lack the tools to adequately measure and understand the value of nature, meaning it is largely invisible to policymakers. Secondly, many economic models assume that environmental value can be easily and indefinitely replaced by man-made value; for example, the loss in natural capital from logging a forest is off-set by the creation of valuable jobs and timber – ignoring the question of what happens when the last tree is cut down. Finally, we don’t have the laws and institutions required to protect our critical stocks of natural capital from unsustainable exploitation. Full article.
If a child uses diapers for 2 1/2 years, it will require 897 litres (237 gallons) of crude oil for plastic water proof lining, 715 lbs of plastic, and the pulp from 4.5 trees for the fluffy padding. Stats: http://www.greencontributor.com/index…/human-foot-print.html
In the first year, an American toddler would have generated more carbon dioxide emission than an average person in Tanzania will generate in a life time.
To offset your 20 tonnes of CO2 produced each year, you need to plant 20 trees that live for 40 years (all averages, of course). http://www.carbonify.com/carbon-calculator.htm
By George Monbiot - The Guardian
Language is crucial to how we perceive the natural world. Help me to find better ways of describing nature and our relationships with it so we can better defend it.
If Moses had promised the Israelites a land flowing with mammary secretions and insect vomit, would they have followed him into Canaan? Though this means milk and honey, I doubt it would have inspired them.
So why do we use such language to describe the natural wonders of the world? There are examples everywhere, but I will illustrate the problem with a few from the UK. On land, places in which nature is protected are called “sites of special scientific interest”. At sea, they are labelled “no-take zones” or “reference areas”. Had you set out to estrange people from the living world, you could scarcely have done better.
Even the term “reserve” is cold and alienating – think of what we mean when we use that word about a person. “The environment” is just as bad: an empty word that creates no pictures in the mind. Wild animals and plants are described as “resources” or “stocks”, as if they belong to us and their role is to serve us: a notion disastrously extended by the term “ecosystem services”.
Our assaults on life and beauty are also sanitised and disguised by the words we use. When a species is obliterated by people, we use the term “extinction”. It conveys no sense of our role in the extermination, and mixes up this eradication with the natural turnover of species. It’s like calling murder “expiration”. “Climate change” also confuses natural variation with the catastrophic disruption we cause: a confusion deliberately exploited by those who deny our role. (Even this neutral term has now been banned from use in the US Department of Agriculture.) I still see ecologists referring to “improved” pasture, meaning land from which all life has been erased other than a couple of plant species favoured for grazing or silage. We need a new vocabulary.
Words possess a remarkable power to shape our perceptions. The organisation Common Cause discusses a research project in which participants were asked to play a game. One group was told it was called the “Wall Street Game”, while another was asked to play the “Community Game”. It was the same game. But when it was called the Wall Street Game, the participants were consistently more selfish and more likely to betray the other players. There were similar differences between people performing a “consumer reaction study” and a “citizen reaction study”: the questions were the same, but when people saw themselves as consumers, they were more likely to associate materialistic values with positive emotions.
Words encode values that are subconsciously triggered when we hear them. When certain phrases are repeated, they can shape and reinforce a worldview, making it hard for us to see an issue differently. Advertisers and spin doctors understand this all too well: they know that they can trigger certain responses by using certain language. But many of those who seek to defend the living planet seem impervious to this intelligence.
The catastrophic failure by ecologists to listen to what cognitive linguists and social psychologists have been telling them has led to the worst framing of all: “natural capital”. This term informs us that nature is subordinate to the human economy, and loses its value when it cannot be measured by money. It leads almost inexorably to the claim made by the government agency Natural England: “The critical role of a properly functioning natural environment is delivering economic prosperity.”
Amazon Tribe Stands Up for Their Survival
Any chance Western society will protect indigenous rights and save what remains of the Planet's last remnant rainforests? The world’s fourth-largest dam will flood some of the land that indigenous tribes have lived on for centuries. National Geographic
How an Indigenous Group Is Battling Construction of the Nicaragua Canal
The Rama community’s efforts offer a glimmer of hope for opponents of the canal project planned by a Chinese billionaire. Smithsonian
The Threat Facing Isolated Indigenous Groups in the Ecuadorian Amazon
Yasuní National Park and the Tagaeri-Taromenane Intangible Zone, home to isolated indigenous groups, have become hotspots of illegal logging and hunting. Pacific Standard
Can Borneo's Tribes Survive 'Biggest Environmental Crime of Our Times'?
More than 90 percent of Borneo’s primary forest has been destroyed.
How Dakota Pipeline Protest Became a Native American Cry for Justice
Keystone XL may have been a prelude, but the success of the Standing Rock 'water protectors' was more about environmental justice than just another pipeline.
By Michelle Nijhuis
Different facets of biodiversity other than species numbers are increasingly appreciated as critical for maintaining the function of ecosystems and their services to humans. While new international policy and assessment processes such as the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) recognize the importance of an increasingly global, quantitative and comprehensive approach to biodiversity protection, most insights are still focused on a single facet of biodiversity—species. Here we broaden the focus and provide an evaluation of how much of the world’s species, functional and phylogenetic diversity of birds and mammals is currently protected and the scope for improvement. We show that the large existing gaps in the coverage for each facet of diversity could be remedied by a slight expansion of protected areas: an additional 5% of the land has the potential to more than triple the protected range of species or phylogenetic or functional units. Further, the same areas are often priorities for multiple diversity facets and for both taxa. However, we find that the choice of conservation strategy has a fundamental effect on outcomes. It is more difficult (that is, requires more land) to maximize basic representation of the global biodiversity pool than to maximize local diversity. Overall, species and phylogenetic priorities are more similar to each other than they are to functional priorities, and priorities for the different bird biodiversity facets are more similar than those of mammals. Our work shows that large gains in biodiversity protection are possible, while also highlighting the need to explicitly link desired conservation objectives and biodiversity metrics. We provide a framework and quantitative tools to advance these goals for multi-faceted biodiversity conservation.
For full article, please visit Nature Letters...
Seven Simple Guidelines for Thinking About Carbon Emissions
By JOSH KATZ and JENNIFER DANIEL
Global climate: it’s complicated. Any long-term solution will require profound changes in how we generate energy. At the same time, there are everyday things that you can do to reduce your personal contribution to a warming planet. Here are seven simple guidelines on how your choices today affect the climate tomorrow.
You’re better off eating vegetables from Argentina than red meat from a local farm.
Full Article at NYTimes: What You Can Do About Climate Change
I know many sane, intelligent, and environmentally conscious people are distraught about the US withdrawal from the Paris climate change agreement. We all should be. And there will be a reckoning for all those politicians that supported the President and his misguided policy on climate change. But in the meantime, I'd like to offer some solace.
First, recent surveys suggest the vast majority of people support our involvement - regardless of political party. So clearly this is just a deranged lunatic trying to support his own financial interests and nothing to do with the reality of the people's will. This will clearly be a major campaign point in the mid-term elections. Article: Majorities of Americans in Every State Support Participation in the Paris Agreement
Second, I've seen multiple pieces suggest that the largest US cities, the most populated states, and the richest companies are all planning on meeting the same regulatory requirements set by the agreement. Article: Climate Mayors commit to adopt, honor and uphold Paris Climate Agreement goals.
To ensure that this is the case, contact your local and state politicians, and continue to minimize your carbon footprint by buying only from those companies that produce sustainable goods. See 25 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
One last point. It will take the country four years to complete the withdrawal process. This means that the exit will be finalized after the next presidential election in 2020. Which means, you have plenty of time to campaign for a candidate who will back climate change policy.
The top 17 ecosystem services are worth more each year than the entire global economy. These services include all those natural processes that benefit people and the rest of life on the planet, providing everything we need - healthy soils, pollinating insects, trees that provide us with oxygen, rivers and oceans that feed us, all for free. Interestingly, biodiversity - which represents the diversity of life on the planet and is often measured by species richness - is a concept often ignored in these valuations, along with most other ecosystem services. Consider the loss of crop pollinators, currently valued at over $100 billion worldwide. This work is currently done for free. However, wide-scale use of pesticides is thought to have resulted in the collapse of colonies - particularly in North America - requiring farmers to hire companies to bring in hives. This is just one species that we depend upon. Think of all the other species out there that provide services. At least 10 million species exist, and yet scientists have hardly begun to understand their contribution to ecosystems or what benefit they might have for people.
Herein lies the problem. We know these species, ecosystems, and the planet as a whole are valuable. And yet, we still have not developed a global wide solution to protecting life on the planet, which inevitably protects us as a species. In fact, many politicians in the U.S. are currently attempting to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Park Service, and the Endangered Species Act. The proponents of such attacks argue that these agencies and protections are limiting growth and that states should have full control of these lands to benefit the economy and add jobs. Others have somehow eluded to the notion that protection of oceans and forests is inherently incompatible with economic growth - as though somehow we can't have a healthy planet and provide jobs and grow the economy. The most short-sighted argument is that the EPA should take into account the true costs of implementing regulations such as job impedance, meanwhile ignoring the costs associated with human health from respiratory illnesses, brown sites due to corporate negligence, pollution of rivers, lakes, and oceans, job loss due to oil spills, and all the costs associated with climate change.
In fact though, our continued economic growth and prosperity as a people is entirely dependent on a healthy, thriving, intact planet. The difference is that we are talking about short-term gain at the expense of long-term prosperity. For example, when oil companies demand pipelines to move petroleum from oil tar sands in Canada, they will benefit financially from increased production. However, every single person on this planet pays the price of this action, as well as future generations. Use of fossil fuels will accelerate climate change, resulting in loss of real estate along coasts, increased droughts and wildfires, the spread of infectious diseases and health-related costs, loss of biodiversity due to changing climate patterns, higher energy demands and costs associated with warmer temperatures, and increased hurricane risks. This also overlooks the inevitable oil spill which will also cost the public dearly. With 300 oil spills each year in the U.S. and 8700 accidents since 1986, the cost is astronomical. The BP Deep Horizon oil spill alone cost $61.6 billion in lost wages, environmental damage, and clean-up.
In the case of the EPA, the governmental organization is in place to protect the people and those ecosystems that they depend upon. Far too often throughout the world, a few individuals will benefit at the expense of everyone else. In economic theory, this is referred to as the tragedy of the commons - resources available to all are exploited by a few individuals to the detriment of the whole. A few corporations may benefit from large scale extraction of oil and may even contribute to job growth. However, the majority of the world does not benefit and in many cases suffers due to the direct and indirect impacts of increased oil exploration.
What hope is there then to preserve our environment and incorporate the true value of nature and its services into a market economy? First, part of the solution is that people need to take into account the true cost of whatever they consume whether it be energy, transportation, housing, food and clothing. Combined, this is often referred to as an ecological footprint. The true cost of consumables would automatically be passed onto the consumer if rules and regulations enforced sustainable quotas and policies. First instance, by demanding that companies meet universally accepted human rights and environmental standards, we would essentially be pricing the true cost of being sustainable into the fair market price. Companies wouldn't be able to avert these costs by moving to environmentally sensitive areas, sourcing materials from some of the most fragile areas of the planet, and paying slave-labor wages. If a world-wide universal standard was enforced, then there would be little incentive to move jobs to areas where people and the environment can be exploited. Secondly, we still need protected areas in which communities, organizations, and governments work to protect their biodiversity. One way to do this is to pay developing countries for the ecosystem services that they provide. For example, The Amazon rainforest is a trillion dollar treasure and developed countries need to pay their fair sure if we all want to benefit from its long-term existence. Certainly you cannot expect developing countries who are having trouble feeding their people to ignore the pot of gold in their backyard. Plus, those countries that often benefit the most from retaining rainforests and other high productivity ecosystems are developed countries who have already destroyed most of their original ecologically important areas. Lastly, in order to truly understand the value of all species on this planet, we need to know what actually exists. As of today, a little more than 1.5 million species have been described by scientists. At the very least, there remain several million more. There is little chance in protecting what we have yet to describe and understand, and a major shift in thinking is needed with considerably more resources devoted to tackling this undertaking. All of this needs to happen now. There is no second chance, there is no back-up planet. If we act now, there's still hope for a healthy planet and a prosperous economy, but we need to make gigantic strides now and make the same substantial investments in our planet that we make in every other part of our society.
Original article: The 21st Century Colorado River Hot Drought and Implications for the Future