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Updated: 42 min 42 sec ago

Lima Climate Talks End, Paris Clock Ticking

Sun, 12/14/2014 - 21:41
The UN climate talks in Lima have ended with the setting of deadlines for the world to come up with plans to curb emissions and adapt to climate change.

By Paul Brown

Thousands march in Lima to add pressure on climate negotiators. Photo courtesy treealerts.org

LONDON, 14 December, 2014 – A deal struck in Lima between 196 nations today leaves open the possibility of saving the planet from dangerous overheating. But its critics say the prospects of success are now slim.

The talks – which ran two days longer than scheduled – set a series of deadlines which mean that every nation is charged with producing its plans to cap and reduce emissions and adapt to climate change.

These commitments will then be assessed to see if they are enough to prevent the world heating up more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, the threshold political leaders say must not be crossed in order to avoid dangerous climate change.

The Lima agreement invites all countries to set out their plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 31 March. The next step will be to draft a legally binding international agreement on how to get below the 2°C threshold. This text is to be made available to all countries for comment by May 2015.

All Eyes on Paris

By 1 November the secretariat of the UN Climate Change Convention is supposed to have assessed whether the commitment of these 196 nations is enough to stop the world overheating – and, if it is not, to point out by how far they will miss the target.

All this is to set the stage for a dramatic final negotiation in Paris in a year’s time, when a blueprint for a legally enforceable deal is supposed to be on the table. This is a tall order, however, because each time the parties meet the rich and poor countries wage the same arguments over again.

The developing countries say the rich developed countries that caused the problem in the first place must make deep cuts in their emissions and pay huge sums for the poorer countries to adapt to climate change.

 “The text went from weak to weaker to weakest and it’s very weak indeed.” ~ Sam Smith, WWF Chief of Climate Policy

The rich countries say that the fast industrialisation of many developing countries means that these countries must cut emissions too, otherwise the world will overheat anyway.

The poorest countries of all, and the small island states, who everyone agrees have no responsibility for the problem, want much more dramatic curbs on emissions, and more money for adaptation to sea level rise and climate extremes than is likely to be forthcoming.

New Reality

The talks take place amid their own jargon, with phrases like the “principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances” seen as essential to point up the difference between rich and poor nations and what they are expected to do.

The talks have dragged on for 15 years since the signing of the Kyoto Protocol, in which the rich nations agreed to the first cuts in emissions while allowing the poorer nations to continue developing.

Now that China has overtaken the US as the world’s biggest polluter, and countries like Brazil and India are fast catching up, the scientific case is that every country has to curb its emissions, or else everyone faces disaster.

But whether the talks have gone far enough to allow a deal to be reached in Paris next year is a matter of many opinions.

“As a text it’s not perfect, but it includes the positions of the parties,” said Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, the Peruvian environment minister, who presided over the talks and must have been relieved he got a text on which every country was prepared to agree.

Caustic Reaction

Environmental groups were scathing about the outcome. Sam Smith, chief of climate policy for WWF, said: “The text went from weak to weaker to weakest and it’s very weak indeed.

“Governments crucially failed to agree on specific plans to cut emissions before 2020…The science is clear that delaying action until 2020 will make it near-impossible to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, yet political expediency won over scientific urgency.”

“It’s definitely watered down from what we expected,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

But those not keen on limiting their own development were happy. “We got what we wanted,” Prakash Javadekar, India’s environment minister, said.

Despite the different views the talks did not break down, and so there is still hope. This assessment from Mohammed Adow, Christian Aid’s senior climate change adviser, probably accurately sums up the Lima result: “The countdown clock to Paris is now ticking. Countries had the chance to give themselves a head start on the road to Paris but instead have missed the gun and now need to play catch-up.” – Climate News Network

Editor’s Note: Click here for a rundown of what transpired during the full two weeks of talks.

Categories: Ecological News

Ian Player, Grandfather of Conservation Passes On

Mon, 12/01/2014 - 02:50

Image courtesy http://rhinoseday.com/

Nature conservationist Ian Player has died at his home in the Karkloof Valley in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

The Wilderness Foundation issued a statement stating “”87-year-old Dr Ian Player, passed away peacefully at midday on 30 November 2014 after a short illness.” Player – who is credited with saving the white rhino from extinction in KwaZulu-Natal in the 1950s – suffered a stroke last Thursday. He committed his life to conservation and is known worldwide as the grandfather of South Africa’s conservation movement.

Andrew Zaloumis, CEO of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority, a Unesco World Heritage site, posted on Facebook: “In a century when the earth is being badly injured and harmed, nature is desperately in need of wise guardians to protect it.  Ian was such a sage. His voice was a beacon of hope, one that recognized the sacredness of all species and the interconnectiveness of life itself.  For those of us in the trenches he will be sorely missed. He stood with us in a joint quest to ensure the protection and the well being of all the earth’s inhabitants.”

This year, the  world-renowned Dusi Canoe Marathon, a paddling and portaging ultra-marathon from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, will honor Player, its founder and the inaugural winner (and only finisher) in 1951. “His passion for adventure and conservation will always be cherished by the 12 374 men and women who have followed in his footsteps and completed a Dusi, and by every single one of the athletes that will start the 2015 edition of the race in his memory,” Dusi GM Brett Austen Smith said.

There is to be a small, private funeral but numerous memorials are being planned. “His passing has been so gentle and peaceful while his Spirit and Soul were being absorbed into the Greater Universe,” Sheila Berry said on behalf of the Player family.

For more information on his remarkable life, visit Ian Player.com

Categories: Ecological News

EPA Proposes Smog Standards to Safeguard Americans from Air Pollution

Thu, 11/27/2014 - 00:55

By EPA

WASHINGTON– Based on extensive recent scientific evidence about the harmful effects of ground-level ozone, or smog, EPA is proposing to strengthen air quality standards to within a range of 65 to 70 parts per billion (ppb) to better protect Americans’ health and the environment, while taking comment on a level as low as 60 ppb. The Clean Air Act requires EPA to review the standards every five years by following a set of open, transparent steps and considering the advice of a panel of independent experts. EPA last updated these standards in 2008, setting them at 75 ppb.

“Bringing ozone pollution standards in line with the latest science will clean up our air, improve access to crucial air quality information, and protect those most at-risk. It empowers the American people with updated air quality information to protect our loved ones – because whether we work or play outdoors – we deserve to know the air we breathe is safe,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Fulfilling the promise of the Clean Air Act has always been EPA’s responsibility. Our health protections have endured because they’re engineered to evolve, so that’s why we’re using the latest science to update air quality standards – to fulfill the law’s promise, and defend each and every person’s right to clean air.”

EPA scientists examined numerous scientific studies in its most recent review of the ozone standards, including more than 1,000 new studies published since the last update.  Studies indicate that exposure to ozone at levels below 75 ppb — the level of the current standard — can pose serious threats to public health, harm the respiratory system, cause or aggravate asthma and other lung diseases, and is linked to premature death from respiratory and cardiovascular causes. Ground-level ozone forms in the atmosphere when emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds “cook” in the sun from sources like cars, trucks, buses, industries, power plants and certain fumes from fuels, solvents and paints. People most at risk from breathing air containing ozone include people with asthma, children, older adults, and those who are active or work outside. Stronger ozone standards will also provide an added measure of protection for low income and minority families who are more likely to suffer from asthma or to live in communities that are overburdened by pollution. Nationally, 1 in 10 children has been diagnosed with asthma.

According to EPA’s analysis, strengthening the standard to a range of 65 to 70 ppb will provide significantly better protection for children, preventing from 320,000 to 960,000 asthma attacks and from 330,000 to 1 million missed school days. Strengthening the standard to a range of 70 to 65 ppb would better protect both children and adults by preventing more than 750 to 4,300 premature deaths; 1,400 to 4,300 asthma-related emergency room visits; and 65,000 to 180,000 missed workdays.

EPA estimates that the benefits of meeting the proposed standards will significantly outweigh the costs.  If the standards are finalized, every dollar we invest to meet them will return up to three dollars in health benefits. These large health benefits will be gained from avoiding asthma attacks, heart attacks, missed school days and premature deaths, among other health effects valued at $6.4 to $13 billion annually in 2025 for a standard of 70 ppb, and $19 to $38 billion annually in 2025 for a standard of 65 ppb.  Annual costs are estimated at $3.9 billion in 2025 for a standard of 70 ppb, and $15 billion for a standard at 65 ppb.

A combination of recently finalized or proposed air pollution rules – including “Tier 3” clean vehicle and fuels standards – will significantly cut smog-forming emissions from industry and transportation, helping states meet the proposed standards.  EPA’s analysis of federal programs that reduce air pollution from fuels, vehicles and engines of all sizes, power plants and other industries shows that the vast majority of U.S. counties with monitors would meet the more protective standards by 2025 just with the rules and programs now in place or underway. Local communities, states, and the federal government have made substantial progress in reducing ground-level ozone. Nationally, from 1980 to 2013, average ozone levels have fallen 33 percent. EPA projects that this progress will continue.

The Clean Air Act provides states with time to meet the standards. Depending on the severity of their ozone problem, areas would have between 2020 and 2037 to meet the standards. To ensure that people are alerted when ozone reaches unhealthy levels, EPA is proposing to extend the ozone monitoring season for 33 states. This is particularly important for at-risk groups, including children and people with asthma because it will provide information so families can take steps to protect their health on smoggy days.

The agency is also proposing to strengthen the “secondary” ozone standard to a level within 65 to 70 ppb to protect plants, trees and ecosystems from damaging levels of ground-level ozone. New studies add to the evidence showing that repeated exposure to ozone stunts the growth of trees, damages plants, and reduces crop yield.  The proposed level corresponds to levels of seasonal ozone exposure scientists have determined would be more protective.

EPA will seek public comment on the proposal for 90 days following publication in the Federal Register, and the agency plans to hold three public hearings. EPA will issue final ozone standards by October 1, 2015.

To view the proposal: http://www.epa.gov/glo/

Categories: Ecological News

NASA Captures a Year in the Life of Earth’s CO2

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 12:26

Courtesy of NASA

An ultra-high-resolution NASA computer model has given scientists a stunning new look at how carbon dioxide in the atmosphere travels around the globe.

Plumes of carbon dioxide in the simulation swirl and shift as winds disperse the greenhouse gas away from its sources. The simulation also illustrates differences in carbon dioxide levels in the northern and southern hemispheres and distinct swings in global carbon dioxide concentrations as the growth cycle of plants and trees changes with the seasons.

The carbon dioxide visualization was produced by a computer model called GEOS-5, created by scientists at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Global Modeling and Assimilation Office.

The visualization is a product of a simulation called a “Nature Run.” The Nature Run ingests real data on atmospheric conditions and the emission of greenhouse gases and both natural and man-made particulates. The model is then left to run on its own and simulate the natural behavior of the Earth’s atmosphere. This Nature Run simulates January 2006 through December 2006.

While Goddard scientists worked with a “beta” version of the Nature Run internally for several years, they released this updated, improved version to the scientific community for the first time in the fall of 2014.

For detailed views of various parts of the world, visit:
A Closer Look at Carbon Dioxide

Categories: Ecological News

Global Fishing Watch is Eye on the Ocean

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 12:05

Close to 90 percent of the world’s oceans are over-fished or fully exploited, according to 2014 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Fishing fleets operate way out to sea, often operating in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and other no-go zones, far beyond watchful eyes.

But not for much longer.

At the recent 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia the prototype of a new big data technology platform called Global Fishing Watch was unveiled. Developed through a technology partnership between SkyTruth, Oceana and Google, the system utilizes AIS (Automatic Identification System) satellite data points from commercial shipping and analyzes the data which provide near-real-time information about a ship’s movements. It includes identity, speed and direction of the vessels and is capable of removing non-fishing vessels from the display. The platform will ultimately provide citizens with a simple, online platform to visualize, track and share information about fishing activity worldwide.

In the press release issued at the unveiling, Oceana CEO Andrew Sharpless states, “By engaging citizens to hold their elected officials accountable for managing fisheries sustainably and for enforcing fishing rules, Global Fishing Watch will help bring back the world’s fisheries, protecting and enhancing the livelihoods of the hundreds of millions of people who depend on ocean fisheries for food and income.”

Brian Sullivan, Program Manager, Google Ocean & Earth Outreach stated that by combining massive data and cloud computing to enable new tools in a Google-scale approach, the new platform can lead to “ocean sustainability and public awareness.”

“So much of what happens out on the high seas is invisible, and that has been a huge barrier to understanding and showing the world what’s at stake for the ocean. But now, satellite data is allowing us to make human interaction with the ocean more transparent than ever before. Fishermen can show how they are doing their part to fish sustainably, we can motivate citizens to watch the places they care about, and we can all work together to restore a thriving ocean,” said John Amos, President and Founder of SkyTruth.

The projected launch of the Global Fishing Watch free web portal is anticipated in 2015 or 2016, depending on the availability of funding.

Learn more about the project here.

SkyTruth is a nonprofit organization using remote sensing and digital mapping to create stunning images that expose the environmental impact of natural resource extraction and other human activities. We use satellite imagery and geospatial data to create compelling and scientifically credible visuals and resources to inform environmental advocates, policy-makers, the media, and the public. To learn more, visit SkyTruth.org.

Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 600,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, visit www.oceana.org.

Google Earth Outreach is a team dedicated to leveraging and developing Google’s infrastructure to address environmental and humanitarian issues through partnerships with non-profits, educational institutions, and research groups. To learn more, visit earth.google.com/outreach.

Categories: Ecological News

Land Trust Alliance Teams with Environmental, Health Allies to Combat National Health Crisis of Nature Deficit Disorder

Sat, 11/15/2014 - 00:21
“If nature contact were a medication, we would be prescribing it to everybody.”

~ Howard Frumkin, dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Washington

Cooperative Initiative Anchored by Wingspread Declaration

The Land Trust Alliance, a national land conservation organization working to save the places people need and love by strengthening land conservation across America, has teamed with allies from across conservation and health sectors to announce today an initiative to combat nature deficit disorder, a national health crisis with substantial economic and social implications.

“We, as a species, are now far more sedentary and disconnected from the land than our forerunners, and we are paying the price,” said Rand Wentworth, the Alliance’s president.

This cooperative initiative is anchored by the Wingspread Declaration, a document signed by 30 of America’s leading health officials, academics and nature-focused nonprofits. The Declaration calls for concerted action from health, environmental, academic, governmental and corporate actors to cooperatively reconnect people with nature and secure new commitments to protecting nature.

“If nature contact were a medication, we would be prescribing it to everybody,” said Howard Frumkin, dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Washington, and one of the signatories to the Declaration. “It is safe, it is effective in preventing and treating a wide range of diseases and improving well-being, and, compared to many medications, it costs less, has fewer side effects and doesn’t need to be administered by a specialist. Investment in natural settings for healing, recreation and routine activities is investment in health – and it’s an investment that yields a very high return.”

This new initiative comes at a time when more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, incurring $148 billion in medical costs annually and contributing to 18% of U.S. adult deaths. Publicly available data shows U.S. healthcare costs are the highest per capita in the world – and that amount continues to increase.

“But consider an alternative,” Wentworth said. “Consider a forest trail. Consider a fresh breeze. Consider the robust body of evidence linking human health to nature.”

Wentworth said on both the quantitative and qualitative levels, time outdoors is known to improve people’s well-being. Nature deficit disorder is linked to higher rates of anxiety disorders and of mood disorders, such as depression, and exposure to green space counters these tendencies. People who live near natural settings are likely to report better mental health; urban parks are known to lower stress and elevate mood; and studies have even linked green neighborhoods with lower rates of obesity in children and longer life spans in elders.

“We know that increased activity can improve health,” said Ray Baxter, senior vice president of Community Benefit, Research and Health Policy at Kaiser Permanente, and another signatory to the Declaration. “We also know that access to nature can encourage and empower increased activity. So we should do everything possible to increase access to nature for everyone.”

Leaders from parks and health are discussing and supporting the Wingspread Declaration this week at milestone meetings in New Orleans and Sydney, Australia. Over 13,000 health providers at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting in New Orleans and 5,000 parks and protected-land professionals at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia, will learn more about the Declaration and its goals.

Additional supporters are also responding to the Declaration’s call on health institutions to include nature in their practices and prescriptions; call on schools to ensure all children grow up connected to nature; call on elected officials and philanthropists to invest in parks, trails and green spaces; and call on employers to reconnect their employees with nature.

“We have a moral imperative to improve access to nature for communities with the highest health needs,” said Rue Mapp, who also signed the Declaration and is CEO and founder of Outdoor Afro. “And in doing so, we not only prevent health problems, but we treat the crisis at hand.”

Visit www.healthandnature.org to learn more about and endorse the Wingspread Declaration.

About the Land Trust Alliance

Founded in 1982, the Land Trust Alliance is a national land conservation organization that works to save the places people need and love by strengthening land conservation across America. The Alliance represents 1,200 member land trusts supported by more than 5 million members nationwide. The Alliance is based in Washington, D.C., and operates several regional offices. More information about the Alliance is available at www.landtrustalliance.org.

About the University of Washington School of Public Health

The University of Washington School of Public Health is one of the nation’s leading such institutions. Our vision — “Healthy people in sustainable communities — locally, nationally, and globally” — drives a three-part mission: teaching, research, and service. Over the last 40 years, our 10,000 graduates have gone on to transform communities and lead health organizations. Our faculty and students accomplish innovative research to meet the emerging challenges of the 21st century, such as environmental change, obesity and nutrition, health policy, health systems that work, and the social factors that affect our health. To learn more, visit sph.washington.edu.

About Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and nonprofit health plans. Founded in 1945, we have a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve approximately 9.5 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to: kp.org/share.

About Outdoor Afro

Outdoor Afro is a social community that reconnects African-Americans with natural spaces and one another through recreational activities such as camping, hiking, biking, birding, fishing, gardening, skiing and more. Outdoor Afro disrupts the false perception that black people do not have a relationship with nature and works to shift the visual representation of who can connect with the outdoors. To learn more, visit www.outdoorafro.com.

Joshua Lynsen
Media Relations Manager, Land Trust Alliance

Categories: Ecological News

The U.S. and China Announce New Actions to Reduce Carbon Pollution

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 04:04

By John Podesta & John Holdren
The White House Blog

Today in Beijing, President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping made history by jointly announcing the United States’ and China’s respective targets for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change in the post-2020 period.

This announcement is a unique development in the U.S.-China relationship. The world’s two largest economies, energy consumers, and carbon emitters are reaching across traditional divides and working together to demonstrate leadership on an issue that affects the entire world.

By making this announcement well in advance of the deadline set out in the UNFCCC negotiations, the two leaders demonstrated their commitment to reducing the harmful emissions warming our planet, and urged other world leaders to follow suit in offering strong national targets ahead of next year’s final negotiations in Paris.

President Obama believes we have a moral obligation to take action on climate change, and that we cannot leave our children a planet beyond their capacity to repair. Over the last year, a spate of scientific studies have laid out the scope and scale of the challenge we face in the starkest of terms. “Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” says the U.S. National Climate Assessment. “Without additional mitigation efforts…warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally,” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concludes.

In Copenhagen in 2009, President Obama pledged that the United States would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. We’re on track to meet that goal while growing the economy and creating jobs, thanks to the historic fuel economy standards enacted during the President’s first term; the measures to reduce carbon pollution, deploy more clean energy, and boost energy efficiency through the President’s Climate Action Plan; and the leadership demonstrated by a growing number of U.S. businesses, who have increased their investment in clean technologies and pledged to phase down the potent greenhouse gases known as HFCs.

After 2020, the United States will reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions to 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. This goal is both ambitious and achievable, grounded in an intensive analysis of what actions can be taken under existing law, and will double the pace of carbon pollution reduction in the United States from the pre-2020 period. It also means the United States is doing its part to contain warming to 2 degrees Celsius, though achieving that global outcome will require global ambition and commitments from all economies.

Chinese President Xi announced for the first time his intention to peak Chinese CO2 emissions around 2030, and further committed to make best efforts to peak early. China also announced a target of expanding the share of zero-emission sources in primary energy, namely renewables and nuclear, to 20% by 2030. To achieve that goal, China will have to deploy an additional 800-1,000 gigawatts of zero-emission generation capacity by 2030, about the same as all their current coal-fired capacity and nearly as much as the total installed capacity in the U.S. energy sector today.

“There’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other,” President Obama said in September. “And that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.”

Today in Beijing, the leaders of the world’s two largest economies — and the world’s two biggest emitters — stood together and committed to tackling that threat head-on. If other leaders follow suit, if more businesses step up, if we keep our level of ambition high, we can build the safer, cleaner, healthier, and more prosperous world future generations deserve.

John Podesta is Counselor to President Barack Obama. John Holdren is the President’s science advisor.

Categories: Ecological News

Europe Faces Crunch Decision on Climate Policy

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 21:32

By Kieran Cooke

As European leaders meet to take a final decision on a new climate and energy policy up to 2030, there is intense interest worldwide to see if Europe opts to take a bold lead in tackling climate change.

The vast Elektrownia Bełchatów power plant in central Poland is Europe’s biggest polluter
Image: G.Mordalski via Wikimedia Commons

LONDON, 23 October, 2014 − It has not been easy. Negotiations on the new energy and climate policy involving all 28 European Union member states have been going on for months – and, in some instances, for years.

The European Council meets today and tomorrow in Brussels with a heavy agenda – including the ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The European Commission’s 2030 policy framework on climate and energy that is up for discussion has two key elements:

  • A binding agreement to cut overall EU CO2 emissions by 40 percent over 1990 levels by 2030.
  • Achieving savings of at least 30 percent in energy efficiency across the EU, also by 2030.

The long-term goal is an ambitious one – nothing short of the transformation of Europe’s energy system and its economy. The EU will be decarbonised: the plan is to cut EU greenhouse gas emissions by between 80 percent and 90 percent by 2050.

There are other ingredients in the package, which is designed to replace the existing policy, focused on 2020 targets. These include commitments to renewables and to the reform of the EU’s ailing Emissions Trading System, moves towards a more integrated cross-border energy system, plus the phasing out of subsidies for Europe’s coal industry.

Many compromises

The devil, as always, is in the detail. Achieving agreement among EU member countries – each with its own distinctive political set-up and economic ambitions – is difficult, some would say impossible. Many compromises have had to be made.

Some countries still have reservations about the whole idea of setting binding emission reduction targets, saying this will increase energy costs and result in Europe losing its economic competitiveness − particularly with the US, where the price of energy has dropped significantly due to the widespread take-up of shale oil and gas.

Poland is one of the countries that will be hard to convince. It is heavily dependent on coal for its energy, and is fighting against any move to phase out subsidies for the coal industry.

A group of countries, led by Germany, wants EU energy efficiency targets to be binding, while others, led by an increasingly Euro-sceptic UK government, say each country should be allowed to set its own energy efficiency goals – and that there should be less interference by Brussels.

Meanwhile, scientists and economists say the new package – even if it is approved − is not nearly ambitious enough.

Professor Jim Skea, a vice-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says countries are doing only what is politically achievable, rather than what is necessary to transform the EU’s energy sector.

“I don’t think many people have grasped just how huge this task is,” Skea told BBC news. “It is absolutely extraordinary and unprecedented. My guess is that 40 percent for 2030 is too little too late if we are really serious about our long-term targets.”

Some business interests remain firmly opposed to the EU’s new energy regime, but many of Europe’s biggest corporations − frustrated by frequent changes in policy and by political interference − are backing a call for more robust action on climate change.

“We remain increasingly concerned at the costs, risks and impacts associated with delayed action on climate change on our markets, supply chains, resources costs, and upon society as a whole,” says an open letter to the European Council from the Climate Group and 56 other leading EU businesses and organisations.

Relations strained

With relations between the EU and Russia increasingly strained due to events in Ukraine and elsewhere, European countries are concerned about their energy security and dependence on gas imports from Russia.

A report by the ECOFYS consultancy and the Open Climate Network group says gas imports into Europe could be cut in half by ramping up investment in renewable energy and achieving greater energy efficiency. Emissions targets would also be met much sooner.

A separate report by Ernst & Young, the professional services company, says the EU is in danger of missing out on the financial benefits of developing renewable technologies.

Stable long-term targets and smart industrial policy, Ernst & Young says, can help Europe secure its slice of “a cake that will be worth hundreds of billions of dollars by the turn of the century”. – Climate News Network

Categories: Ecological News

California Geese Applaud Ruling on Foie Gras

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 13:21

Foie Gras ducks in Normany, France. Photo via Wikipedia

Or they would if they could, because the October 14, 2014 Supreme Court ruling means that California’s ban of the sale of foie gras, a delicacy that is produced by force-feeding corn to ducks and geese so as to enlarge their livers beyond normal size, remains in place. Animal rights activists have long condemned the practice of force-feeding as being cruel and painful. In 2004 the California legislature took their point and passed a ban that went into effect in 2012.

The fight was led by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and the law was authored and shepherded by former California state legislator John Burton, who described the drive as a “long, hard fight.”

“The Supreme Court’s decision means that the people of California have the right to prohibit the sale of certain food items, solely because they are the product of animal cruelty,” Jonathan Lovvorn, chief counsel for the Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement.

Food Fight

Opposition to the ban from foie gras  (which means fatty liver in Frenchproducers and restaurateurs was fast and furious. A challenge (Association des Eleveur v. Harris, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 13-1313) was formally mounted in the United States District Court of Central California by the Canadian foie gras producers, Association Des Eleveurs de Canards et D’Oies Du Quebec, New York-based Hudson Valley Foie Gras, and California-based HOT’S Restaurant Group. Thirteen meat and poultry producing states weighed in with a supporting brief in favor of overturning the foie gras ban. The appeal was also supported by almost 100 star chefs.

Informally, the plaintiffs argued that the law did not take into account new, more humane methods of foie gras production. But their primary claim rested on the concept that the law violated the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which prohibits states from interfering with interstate commerce.

In a brief defending the law, California Attorney General Kamala Harris argued that the state did not exceed its jurisdiction in implementing the ban. “State laws prohibiting the sale of products based on concerns about animal welfare, or simply on a social consensus concerning what is appropriate, are not unusual,” she wrote, citing various states’ laws prohibiting the sale of horse meat.

Ultimately, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the producers’ line of reasoning. Relatively confident that the conservative high court would be open to the argument that the ban violated interstate commerce rules and curtailed free trade, the foie gras contingent took their case to the highest court in the land. However, on October 14th, the high court declined to hear the appeal thus leaving intact an August 2013 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the law.

No Foie Gras For You

Foie gras is no longer available in California. Photo via Wikipedia

The reaction of the food community to the ruling has been every bit as emotional as that of animal rights activists. The ban, they say, will crush culinary creativity by discouraging chefs from taking risks. It is yet another instance of political correctness and odious government overreach. One chef even alleged that the ban was a violation of free speech. Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain called foie gras “one of the most delicious things on earth and one of the ten most important flavors in gastronomy,” urging one and all to lavish their dinner guests with a “delicious, unctuous terrine of foie gras.” Those who object to it solely based on the nature of its production are quite simply “twisted souls.”

Rumors circulated throughout the foodie community that there would soon be specially trained patrols roaming the state to find and prosecute foie gras scofflaws. In response, some partisans vowed, there would be an underground movement to open foie gras speakeasies and renegade pop-up restaurants where the contraband could be served.

So why all the frenzied reaction to the loss of something that – really – is a very small part of the foodie food-chain?

There’s a lot more at stake in the war over foie gras than its particular culinary virtuosity.
California’s law is seen by the country’s giant food producers – the so-called factory farms – as an ominous portent of animal welfare regulation to come.

The state has already passed a law requiring larger cages for egg-laying hens in 2010. That law was appealed by six states who argued that California should not be allowed to have standards different from those of other states. They further alleged that the infrastructure changes required to meet those standards would cost out-of-state farmers hundreds of millions of dollars effectively limiting if not preventing outright their ability to sell their products.

The egg-producers weren’t alone in voicing their alarm. Dom Nikoim with the Missouri Pork Association claims that the law is “a clear violation of the U.S. Commerce Clause,” and warns that it likely won’t stop with eggs.“Logically, the next step is, we should extend our authority on how you produce pork to other states, as well. Then is it dairy, is it beef, is it corn? Go down the list.”

For now, geese, ducks and egg-laying hens have won the day, but the anti-animal welfare regulation lobby is large and powerful. And you can be sure that they – and their representatives in Congress – have only just begun to fight.

Categories: Ecological News

World Food Day 2014 Toasts Family Farmers

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 23:59

By Food Tank

We must do more to incentivize, celebrate and exponentially improve the lives of family farmers to ensure all people have access to fresh, healthy food.

Today, the world puts 500 million family farmers in the spotlight in observance of World Food Day 2014. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has recognized family farmers as central to solving global hunger and malnutrition.

According to FAO, family farming includes all family-based agricultural activities. Family farming is a means of organizing agricultural, forestry, fisheries, pastoral and aquaculture production, which is managed and operated by a family and is predominantly reliant on family labor. In addition, FAO reports that based on data from 93 countries, family farmers account for an average of 80 percent of all holdings, and are the main producers of food that is consumed locally.

“The world cannot do without the family farmer,” says Amy McMillen, Partnerships and Outreach Coordinator for FAO. “It’s because of the family farmer that we eat a variety of healthy foods every day.  And yet, family farmers still make up the majority of poor and hungry people in the world. We must do more to incentivize, celebrate and exponentially improve the lives of family farmers to ensure all people have access to fresh, healthy food.”

The face of family farming in North America is dynamic. Results from a new survey of 75 North American family farmers, led by Humanitas Global in collaboration with FAO and Food Tank, were unveiled at the Borlaug Dialogue in Des Moines, Iowa today. The results demonstrate what is at play for those who have stayed on the farm, chosen to leave the farm or taken up farming for the first time. A consistent takeaway from the results demonstrates that North American-based family farmers remain committed to family farming, despite the challenges that exist.

“The survey results and our conversations with farmers reinforce a deep affinity for family farming, but they also show that farmers are torn between a love for the land and trying to make ends meet,” said Nabeeha M. Kazi, President & CEO of Humanitas Global and Chair of the Community for Zero Hunger. “For those who no longer work the family farm, the importance of feeding their communities and the world remains very much part of their identity.”

Seventy-nine percent of survey respondents who have left the family farm said they remain involved in agriculture in their current careers.  In addition, a majority of those who have left the family farm said they intend on returning in the future.

“We do not want the universe of family farmers to shrink, and we must have policies, programs and resources to enable family farmers to stay on the farm if they desire to do so and perform at their potential,” says Kazi.  “However, we also cannot overlook the power of those who have left the farm. These individuals have tremendous and highly credible voices as we promote and protect the family farm. We should deploy them to inform policy, shape programs and amplify the story of the family farmer in diverse spaces.”

The greatest challenges for family farmers today include the cost of land, labor costs, government regulations and policies, climate change and the inherent risk of farming, as well as the disproportionate amount of work required given the financial returns.

“The survey results show that family farmers do not rely on farming alone to pay the bills,” says Kazi. “Approximately 67 percent of respondents to the survey said that a family member’s income or additional part-time work supplements income from farming.”

On the positive side, a connection with the land and food systems, independence and working outdoors were all cited as the principle advantages of being a farmer. Those who grew up and remained on farms, those who left farms to pursue other careers and new family farmers all spoke of tending to the land and watching food grow as the most fulfilling aspects of being a farmer.

“Family farmers are facing economic challenges and beyond,” says Danielle Nierenberg, President of Food Tank. “In addition to tools and resources, family farmers are concerned about issues that all Americans worry about – including providing health care for their families and higher education for their children. And yet, so many people stay on the family farm or are committed to returning, because farming is fulfilling, intellectually stimulating and challenging – and it has shaped their values.”

Neirenberg points out that the commitment to family farming is unwavering. She notes that many respondents who have left the family farm said they still pitch in on the farm when they can.  Many went on to say that if no one was available to tend the family farm, they would return home to take over rather than lose it.

The challenges that family farmers face in the United States and throughout North America mirror the challenges seen globally. Climate change, low profitability and better off-farm opportunities all emerge as the greatest global threats to family farming.

“Recognizing the external pressures on family farming, many which the global community can help alleviate, is crucial if we are to make family farming viable and desirable for the next generation,” says McMillan. “FAO celebrates family farmers. We have to be very deliberate and responsive to the needs of the family farmer so they can successfully and profitably do what they love, and that love is feeding and nourishing the world.”

 

Categories: Ecological News

Star-Studded Conservation Campaign

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 11:19

Conservation International, (CI) a non-profit that operates around the world working on topics related to ecosystems, biodiversity and human well-being recently launched the “Nature is Speaking” campaign, a series of videos featuring the voices of international celebrities.

Each voice speaks as a part of the planet;  Julia Roberts is Mother Nature and Harrison Ford is the ocean. Kevin Spacey is a memorable rainforest; Robert Redford speaks as the redwoods, with Penelope Cruz as water and Ed Norton speaks for the soil. All the voices make the point that is so often lost; that Nature doesn’t need Humans, Humans need Nature.

CI’s manifesto, or Humanifesto spells it out, pointing out that nature will go on, with us or without us.

Our Humanifesto

Nature doesn’t need people. People need nature.
Human beings are part of nature. Nature is not dependent on human beings to exist.
Human beings, on the other hand, are totally dependent on nature to exist.
The growing number of people on the planet and how we live here is going to determine the future of nature. And the future of us.
Nature will go on, no matter what. It will evolve.
The question is, will it be with us or without us?
If nature could talk, it would probably say it doesn’t much matter either way.
We must understand there are aspects of how our planet evolves that are totally out of our control.
But there are things that we can manage, control and do responsibly that will allow us and the planet to evolve together.
We are Conservation International and we need your help. Our movement is dedicated to managing those things we can control.
Better.
Country by country.
Business by business.
Human by human.
We are not about us vs. them.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an American, a Canadian or a Papua New Guinean. You don’t even have to be particularly fond of the ocean or have a soft spot for elephants.
This is simply about all of us coming together to do what needs to be done.
Because if we don’t, nature will continue to evolve. Without us.
HERE’S TO THE FUTURE. WITH HUMANS.

View the videos here.

Categories: Ecological News

Enjoy the Colorful Lunar Eclipse on October 7 – 8

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 11:45

By Dr. Tony Phillips
Science@NASA

On Wednesday morning, Oct. 8th, not long before sunrise, the bright full Moon over North America will turn a lovely shade of celestial red. It’s a lunar eclipse—visible from all parts of the USA.

“It promises to be a stunning sight, even from the most light polluted cities,” says NASA’s longtime eclipse expert Fred Espenak. “I encourage everyone, especially families with curious children, to go out and enjoy the event.”

From the east coast of North America, totality begins at 6:25 am EDT. The Moon will be hanging low over the western horizon, probably swollen by the famous Moon illusion into a seemingly-giant red orb, briefly visible before daybreak. West-coast observers are even better positioned. The Moon will be high in the sky as totality slowly plays out between 3:25 am and 4:24 am PDT.

During a lunar eclipse, the Moon passes deep inside the shadow of our planet, a location that bathes the the face of the Moon in a coppery light.

A quick trip to the Moon explains the color: Imagine yourself standing on a dusty lunar plain looking up at the sky. Overhead hangs Earth, nightside down, completely hiding the sun behind it. The eclipse is underway.

You might expect Earth seen in this way to be utterly dark, but it’s not. The rim of the planet is on fire! As you scan your eye around Earth’s circumference, you’re seeing every sunrise and every sunset in the world, all of them, all at once. This incredible light beams into the heart of Earth’s shadow, filling it with a coppery glow and transforming the Moon into a great red orb.

However, red is not the only color. Many observers of lunar eclipses also report seeing a band of turquoise.

The source of the turquoise is ozone. Atmospheric scientist Richard Keen of the University of Colorado explains: “During a lunar eclipse, most of the light illuminating the moon passes through the stratosphere where it is reddened by scattering. However, light passing through the upper stratosphere penetrates the ozone layer, which absorbs red light and actually makes the passing light ray bluer.” This can be seen, he says, as a soft blue fringe around the red core of Earth’s shadow.

To catch the turquoise on Oct. 8th, he advises, “look during the first and last minutes of totality. The turquoise rim is best seen in binoculars or a small telescope.”

The depth and hue of lunar eclipse colors depends a lot on the dustiness of the stratosphere. When volcanoes erupt and chock the stratosphere with aerosols, lunar eclipses can turn such a deep red that the Moon looks almost black. That’s not the case this time, however:

“Despite some recent eruptions that look spectacular from the ground, there have been no large injections of volcanic gases into the stratosphere,” says Keen. “In the absence of volcanic effects, I expect a rather normal reddish-orange lunar eclipse similar in appearance to last April’s eclipse.”

In other words, this is going to be good.

Espenak notes that “the total lunar eclipse of Oct. 8 is the second of four consecutive total lunar eclipses. Such a set of total eclipses is known as a tetrad.” The next eclipse in the tetrad is six months from now, in April 2015.

“Don’t wait,” he urges. Mark your calendar for October 8th, wake up early, and enjoy the show.


 
 

Credits:

Author: Dr. Tony Phillips |  Production editor: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit: Science@NASA

More information:

NASA’s Eclipse home page

Categories: Ecological News

The Wilderness Act at 50

Fri, 10/03/2014 - 04:43

“Wilderness is a necessity … They will see what I meant in time. There must be places for human beings to satisfy their souls. Food and drink is not all. There is the spiritual. In some it is only a germ, of course, but the germ will grow.”

~ John Muir 1838-1914

Fifty years after the signing of the historic Wilderness Act, John Muir’s words still ring true.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Wilderness Act into law on September 3, 1964

The Wilderness Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on September 3, 1964 and President Obama declared September National Wilderness Month. The Act, written by Howard Zahniser of The Wilderness Society it went through more than 60 drafts and taken eight years of work before becoming law. The total area at that time of signing was just 54 areas (9.1 million acres) in 13 states. The law established these areas as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) and since 1964, the NWPS has expanded to  includes 758 areas (109,511,038 acres) in 44 states and Puerto Rico. Although this sounds vast, only 5 percent of the United States is protected as wilderness, an area slightly larger than California. And because Alaska contains more than half of America’s wilderness, just 2.7 percent of the contiguous United States is protected as wilderness.

According to Wilderness.net, “the Noatak and Gates of the Arctic Wildernesses (12,743,329 acres) make up the largest area of unbroken wilderness. In the lower 48 states, the largest area of unbroken wilderness is found in Idaho’s Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness (approximately 2,300,000 acres)” The smallest is Pelican Island Wilderness, in northern Florida which is a tiny 5.5 acres.

A lesser-known act, which was also signed into law on September 3, 1964, is the Land and Water Conservation Fund, one of the most effective tools for conservation, outdoor recreation and economic growth in local communities.

“President Johnson and a bipartisan Congress got it right when they established the Land and Water Conservation Fund, embracing the simple concept that when we take something from the earth – namely, oil and gas from public lands offshore – we should return something back to the earth by investing in our land, water and wildlife heritage,” said U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. “Fifty years later, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has made huge economic contributions to local communities in every state, helping to establish local parks, protect clean water sources and create jobs through outdoor recreation. As we look to the next 50 years, we need to ensure that we continue this great legacy by fully and permanently funding this innovative program.”

A Wild Year

During the year leading up to this anniversary, the entire  country has enjoyed a wide variety of events commemorating the day.

The Smithsonian’s ” Wilderness Forever: 50 Years of Protecting America’s Wild Places,” juried photography exhibit opened September 3, 2014 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. and will run until summer 2015. Winning photographs were selected from more than 5,000 public entries. In addition to the photo exhibit, visitors to the website can put the images in perspective on the interactive maps, with more information and photos.

The National Parks Service commissioned a collection of videos commemorating wilderness areas around the country.

Olympic Wilderness: If Wilderness Could Speak

Enjoy the symphony of nature in one of the most acoustically diverse wilderness areas of the country as we follow the wilderness cry from the alpine region of the Olympic Mountains down through the canopies of the old growth forests and temperate rainforest into the raging waters of the wilderness coast.

Coming up on October 15-19, the National Wilderness Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico plays host to a myriad events, including the Get Wild festival and the People’s Wilderness Film Gala. One of the keynote speakers at the Conference is U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. She is to be joined by numerous keynote speakers, including Sylvia Earle, The Wilderness Society President Jamie Williams and a panel from the four Federal Bureaus that control wilderness areas; Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze; Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe; Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell; National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis.

Events continue around the country through the rest of the year and include Wild Impressions: Art on the Legacy of Wilderness in Roseburg, Oregon; a series of three hikes into El Toro Wilderness Area and Peak summit in Puerto Rico; the Mingo Wilderness Weeklong Volunteer Service Project where volunteers spend a week paddling through the bottomlands of Mingo National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Missouri, while serving to help clear ‘canoe trails’ through this unique wilderness.

Wilderness Under Siege

Currently there are several bills in Congress that could eviscerate the Wilderness Act, according to the Wilderness Society. They include The Great Outdoors Giveaway (HR 1581), which would eliminate the Forest Service’s roadless rule; The Border Patrol Takeover Act (HR 1505) would give the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “operational control” of federal lands within 100 miles of the Mexican and Canadian borders; eight different bills have been introduced, aimed at ending the National Monuments acts. Passed in 1906, the Antiquities Act is an important tool for wilderness protection. These and others are detailed on the Society’s site.

As the human population balloons and corporate entities pressure politicians to change laws to enable access to the protected wilderness, it becomes more and more imperative to stand up and make our voices heard to keep these special places safe.

Categories: Ecological News

California Governor Jerry Brown Signs Nation’s First Statewide Plastic Bag Ban into Law

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 23:27

By Californians Against Waste

California Governor Jerry Brown today signed legislation enacting the nation’s first statewide ban of single-use plastic shopping bags.

“Forty years ago there were no plastic grocery bags; four years from now, we’ll forget there ever were,”

~ Mark Murry, Executive Director of Californians Against Waste

Senate Bill 270 by State Senators Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), Senator Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Huntington Park/Long Beach), became the first plastic bag ban approved by a state legislature in the nation in late August. The bill takes effect July 1, 2015.

“California policy makers have made a clear statement in enacting the bag ban: Producers are responsible for the end of life impacts of their products,” said Mark Murray, Executive Director of Californians Against Waste, the bill’s sponsor. “If a product is too costly to society and the environment, California is prepared to move to eliminate it.”

Currently, 127 cities and counties in the state have adopted a local bag ordinance, covering 36% of the population. SB 270 provides a uniform, statewide solution to the rest of the state, modeled after the local ordinances already in place and successfully implemented.

“For nearly 10 million Californians, life without plastic grocery bags is already a reality,” said Murray, who has been working on the issue for over a decade at both the local and statewide level. “Bag bans reduce plastic pollution and waste, lower bag costs at grocery stores, and now we’re seeing job growth in California at facilities that produce better alternatives.”

For the plastic bag, introduced in the 1970s and now ubiquitous in our streets and creeks, its lightweight and easily airborne characteristics made it problematic even when thrown away in a trash can or garbage truck.

Environmental groups and local government advocates overcame fierce lobbying by out-of-state plastic bag manufacturers, led by South Carolina-based Hilex Poly.

“California policy makers spent a great deal of time debating the merits of this issue over the last several months,” said Murray. “In the end, it was the reports of overwhelming success of this policy at the local level that overcame the political attacks and misinformation from out-of-state plastic bag makers.”

This issue began at the grass roots in San Francisco and Santa Monica in 2007. It has been a top priority for local environmental and community groups, and the bill is now supported by a diverse group of stakeholders, including grocers, retailers, food workers, waste haulers, local governments, and several in-state bag reusable bag makers.

SB 270 prohibits grocery stores, drugstores, and convenience stores from distributing single-use plastic bags, going into effect first in large grocery stores in July of 2015. Stores can sell paper, durable reusable bags, and compostable bags with a minimum charge of 10 cents each. The 10 cent charge is to encourage consumers to bring their own reusable bags. The bill also seeks to protect and create green jobs by creating standards and incentives for plastic bag manufacturers to transition to making reusable bags.

“Forty years ago there were no plastic grocery bags; four years from now, we’ll forget there ever were,” said Murray.

Categories: Ecological News

A Poet at the Climate Summit

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 23:12
Dear Matafele Peinem

On 23 September 2014, 26 year old poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, from the Marshall Islands, addressed the Opening Ceremony of the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit. Kathy was selected from among over 500 civil society candidates in an open, global nomination process conducted by the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service.

Kathy performed her new poem entitled “Dear Matafele Peinem”, written to her daughter. The poem received a standing ovation. Kathy is also a teacher, journalist and founder of the environmental NGO, Jo-jikum.

Categories: Ecological News

What’s Possible: UN Climate Summit Opening Film

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 01:49
Open your eyes to what’s possible.

Earth Day Network has teamed up with Moving Art to share “WHAT’S POSSIBLE: UN Climate Summit Opening Film” with the world. The film above was broadcast to the entire UN General Assembly.

The aim of this film is to show the world what’s possible. We have the tools at hand to create a clean energy future. This is not a dream. A sustainable planet can be our reality.

WHAT’S POSSIBLE was created by director Louie Schwartzberg, writer Scott Z. Burns, Moving Art Studio, and Lyn Davis Lear and the Lear Family Foundation. It features the creative gifts of composer Hans Zimmer.

Categories: Ecological News

World Rhino Day 2014

Mon, 09/22/2014 - 22:21

Today, September 22, the focus is on all rhinos around the world. The World Rhino Day theme this year is Five Rhino Species Forever, celebrating the white, black,  Sumatran, greater one-horned and Javan rhinos.

What began as a small idea in Zimbabwe in 2011, has grown to be a recognized and internationally important day, celebrated by numerous countries. Special events are organized to highlight the plight of these amazing animals.

Fittingly, South Africa is hosting a variety of events including The Youth Rhino Summit, bringing together youngsters from around the world to learn about the rhino’s plight and conservation. 140 delegates, or Rhino Warriors from 20 countries, including the United States, UK, Vietnam and New Zealand are meeting in the the iconic iMfolozi Game Reserve in Kwa-ZuluNatal, where they will spend three days becoming Rhino Ambassadors. When they return to their home countries, they will share the facts about poaching and the devastation to all wildlife and the surrounding communities.

A few facts:

  • Last year, 1004 rhinos were killed in South Africa; that’s  three every day.
  • Three of the species, Black Rhinoceros, Javan Rhinoceros, and Sumatran Rhinoceros,are listed on the critically endangered list; one, the Western Black Rhino, was officially declared extinct in 2013.
  • Besides the enormous poaching threat, rhinos face habitat loss and lack of protection due to their locations in war zones and politically unstable areas.

Categories: Ecological News

Marching for Climate Change

Fri, 09/19/2014 - 22:44
Imagine… More than 100,000 people of all nationalities thronging New York City streets in peaceful protest…  Imagine silence… As the throng honors the people on the front lines of climate change… Then… Imagine the noise… Vuvuzelas, horns, musical instruments and more than 20 marching bands… This is the People’s Climate March in New York City this Sunday, September 21, 2014.

New York City streets are going to be more jammed than usual this weekend, when thousands of Climate Change activists hit town for what is being billed as the largest Climate Change march in history.

The People’s Climate March, taking place this weekend just before the United Nations Climate Summit in New York City, is designed to draw attention to the lack of attention paid by attending world leaders to the devastating effects of climate change. During the Summit, discussions are expected to lay the groundwork for a potential global agreement on emissions, next year in Paris.

From its beginnings as International Day of Climate Action on October 24, 2009, the Climate Change Mobilization movement has gained steady momentum, with worldwide events typically around the same time of year. This year, the Global Day of Action is a month earlier to coincide with the UN Summit, which will be attended by more than 120 Heads of State and Government, plus leading financiers and business leaders. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is calling on these leaders to “bring bold announcements and actions to the Summit that will reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement in 2015.”

More than 1,400 organizations from around the world are planning to march in NYC, as are groups from an estimated 320 college campuses from across this country.

“Students and youth have always been at the vanguard of social movements, and what I’m looking forward to at the People’s Climate March is the intersection of movements. Labor, faith, students, race, class, LGBTQ movements are all coming together in a fantastic show of solidarity, art, culture and power. A movement of movements rooted in shared vision,” said Varshini Prakash, a senior at UMass Amherst, majoring in Environmental Science and Political Science.

But it’s not just the youngsters hitting the streets. Two of the nation’s largest teachers unions, the United Federation of Teachers and National Educators Association, have endorsed the march and are mobilizing their teachers and students. Several New York City labor unions, many faith-based groups and community organizations are also marching. The health care workers union 1199/SEIU, with members from places like Guyana and the Philippines, who know what climate change means to their countries, expects to mobilize several thousand.

In a surprise announcement, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that he planned to join the march. ““I will link arms with those marching for climate action,” Ban said in a statement. “We stand with them on the right side of this key issue for our common future.”

Actor Leonardo Di Caprio, who was recently appointed as a UN Ambassador for Climate Change is also expected to be marching in the event.

Although he won’t be marching, Bishop Desmond Tutu from South Africa, a longtime advocate for tough climate policies and 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner, via a message on the Vine social network said, “We must walk the walk, we must ensure climate justice.”

The two biggest players behind the protest are 350.org, co-founded by Bill McKibben, and Avaaz, a global, online civic organization co-founded by Moveon.org. Numerous other businesses, unions, faith groups, schools, social justice groups and environmental groups are involved as well, including the Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, Amnesty International and more.

In an interview recently with the New York Times, McKibben, the author of several books about climate change, including “The End of Nature” published 25 years ago, said, “We’re going to sound the burglar alarm on people who are stealing the future. We’ve watched the summer Arctic disappear and the ocean turn steadily acidic, it’s not just that things are not getting better. They are getting horribly worse. Unlike any other issue we have faced, this one comes with a time limit. If we don’t get it right soon, we’ll never get it right.”

Although the world spotlights will be on the march in NYC, thousands of other events are planned across the country and around the world. As stated on peoplesclimate.org “Because this is a ‘movement of movements’ moment, the People’s Climate March is being organized in a participatory, open-source model. This means that there isn’t a central “decision-making” body or single coalition. Rather, groups and individuals are collaborating with some basic shared agreements around respect, collaboration, trust, and many are using the Jemez Principles of Environmental Justice.

A  52-minute documentary called Disruption about planning the march was released on September 7 and includes footage of meetings and pre-march rallies, with lessons on climate change and the lack of support to halt the Climate Chaos.

This past week has seen a surge of activity in NYC, leading up to the march. Art and sign-making workshops; educational forums; float building events and even a Pagan Mixer to kick off the People’s Climate March weekend!

The March

After months of negotiations with the New York Police Department, the route has been approved. Marchers will gather at Central Park West, between 65th and 86th streets and the two-mile march will begin at 11:30 ending at 11th Ave in the streets between 34th Street and 38th Street. The various contingents will gather at designated blocks to give the march more continuity. At the start, there will be a minute of silence to honor those impacted by climate change and the fossil fuel industry. Then the march will “Sound the Climate Alarm,” and marchers are encouraged to make as much noise as they can! Drums, trumpets, vuvuzelas and over 20 marching bands will sound out across the marching route and churches across the city will ring their bells. Jewish temples will blow their shofars, as part of the global climate call for action.

The Climate Ribbon

The theme of the march is “It takes roots to weather the storm” and at the end of the march on 11th Avenue, participants will see a huge art piece symbolizing the tree of life, created  by Brooklyn-based artist, Swoon and her team of artist-engineers.  The branches spread out over the streets and marchers can take their own ribbons that they have carried during the march and tie them to the tree. Each ribbon should identify what that person stands to lose through climate change. Ribbons can be exchanged, forging relationships across the world.

In London, England, the Peoples Climate March London will make its way through Westminster to the Houses of Parliament to demonstrate solidarity around the need for leaders to deal with Climate Change. There are numerous other marches planned around England.

Instead of marching, different groups have organized events to honor the environment. For instance, In Suva, Fiji activists can join in a Community Mangrove and Beach Cleanup.  In New Zealand, on this Global Day of Climate Change, cities around the country are hosting Plant for the Planet events. In Port Townsend, Washington, tribal heads will lead a gathering to specifically honor the Salish Sea.

To find an event near you, go to peoplesclimate.org and 350.org and check your local newspapers and websites for events that aren’t listed on the major sites.

Categories: Ecological News

California Adds Steam to the Plastic Bag Ban Movement

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 11:38

By Jill Richardson
Courtesy of Other Words

We can conserve by not wasting stuff we don’t actually need.

California is on the verge of becoming the first state to ban plastic grocery bags. Governor Jerry Brown says he intends to sign the bag-banning law California lawmakers approved in early September. The ban will go into effect at grocery stores and pharmacies next year and extend to liquor stores and additional kinds of retailers in 2016.

In addition to making it against the law for stores to give shoppers single-use plastic bags when ringing up purchases, the new law will also require stores to charge customers 10 cents for each paper bag they get. The kinds of disposable plastic bags used for loose or perishable items like produce will still be allowed.

California’s not the first place in the world to ban plastic grocery bags. In fact, one out of three Californians live in cities and towns — including San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles — that are already plastic bag-free. So are Boulder, Chicago, Santa Fe, Seattle, Austin, and lots of other places across the country.

When Solana Beach, California (population: 13,154) banned plastic bags in 2012, it eliminated the use (and disposal) of 6.5 million bags per year. And that’s just one very small city.

Why is the movement to ban plastic bags gaining steam? After all, they are recyclable, right?

Yes and no. For one thing, most bags don’t get recycled. They might be re-used first, but they often end up in the landfill all the same. Some bags are sent to recycling. Unfortunately, according to Californians Against Waste, they tend to jam up the machines in recycling facilities, requiring extra manpower (and, thus, taxpayer dollars) to remove them.

In addition to clogging up landfills and making incinerated trash more toxic, there’s the ocean pollution that raises concerns in California and other coastal areas. When plastic bags blow into the ocean, they can look like jellyfish — a good meal for a hungry sea turtle. Only, unlike jellyfish, plastic bags are, um, less than nourishing. Plastic bags kill tens of thousands of turtles, seals, birds, and whales every year.

U.S. consumers run through about 100 billion of these bags every year. Worldwide, the total number of bags is around 1 trillion. But despite their widespread use, we don’t actually need disposable plastic bags.

When it comes to saving the planet, we know we need to follow the three Rs: reduce, reuse, and recycle. So what do we give up? Especially if we don’t want to give up anything. In fact, most of us want more, not less.

The easiest way to conserve without downsizing our lifestyles is to improve efficiency and to conserve by not wasting stuff we don’t actually need anyway. If I can have the same quality fridge, car, and washing machine but they each use half as much energy as my old ones, then I’m saving money and treading more lightly on the planet without sacrificing convenience.

Additionally, if I can “reduce” by eliminating stuff I don’t need anyway, that’s far better than giving up the stuff I really want.

What do I want? Nice clothes, good food, and gadgets, but not the bags and boxes they come in.

Packaging is used once, then tossed out — or hopefully, if possible, recycled. Plastic bags simply serve to get your goodies from the store to your door, and then their useful life is over, unless you plan to re-use them to pick up Fido’s business on your next walk.

It’s a small inconvenience to remember to bring reusable bags with you to the grocery store. Since I’m forgetful, I just store all of my canvas totes in my car and my backpack. That way, when I arrive at the store, I’ve already got them.

Let’s come together on small inconveniences, like opting for reusable bags or, at the very least, paper bags, to reduce our environmental footprint.

Categories: Ecological News

Europe Successfully Phasing Out Known Ozone Layer-harming Chemicals

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 22:28

Courtesy of the European Environment Agency

Chemicals which damage the ozone layer continue to be phased out in the European Union, according to the latest data from the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Image NASA


 
 
The report ‘Ozone depleting substances 2013‘ has been published by the EEA to coincide with the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer. It covers the chemicals’ production, destruction, import and export.

Over the last few decades, chemicals known to harm the ozone layer have been successfully substituted in most parts of the world since 1989 when the Montreal Protocol came into force, controlling more than 200 chemicals. Within the EU these substances are covered by the ODS Regulation , which is more stringent than the rules of the Protocol and covers additional substances.

Since the potential to harm the ozone layer varies among substances, the data collected on these chemicals are expressed not only in metric tonnes but also in ‘ozone depleting potential’ (ODP) tonnes which show quantities in terms of their environmental effects rather than physical weight.

Overall, the trade and use of substances with a high ODP is shrinking as they are gradually replaced with less harmful substances, the report shows. Between 2012 and 2013 the production, export and destruction of these substances continued their long-term declining trend, both in ODP terms and metric tonnes. Imports have also declined since 2006, although they have stabilised in recent years and increased slightly between 2012 and 2013.

Categories: Ecological News