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Fix the Soil, Feed the Planet, Save the World: The Power of Regeneration

Fri, 06/12/2015 - 12:58

By Deirdre Fulton
Common Dreams

‘Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the health crisis, the climate crisis and the crisis of democracy,’ says Vandana Shiva

Seeking to elevate sustainable forms of agriculture such as agroecology, holistic grazing, cover cropping, permaculture, and agroforestry over industrial practices that degrade soil, introduce toxins to the food supply—and exacerbate climate change—a group of farmers, scientists, and activists are convening for the Regenerative International Conference in Costa Rica this week.

The conference, the first of a planned series of similar gatherings around the world, will focus on uniting movements, developing campaigns, and creating a global media plan to communicate specifically how restoring soil health can reverse damage to ecosystems around the world.

“This is new science that’s connecting the food issues with the climate issue, making it more and more clear that by fixing the soil, and fixing the way we produce food, we can fix the climate as well,” said Ronnie Cummins, international director of the Organic Consumers Association, in a press release on Monday.

Reports have shown how regenerative farming and ranching techniques—such as “holistic grazing,” which makes use of the movement and behavior of the grazing animals to break up and fertilize dry soil—can restore farmland and produce yields similar to industrial techniques, leading to far greater food security. In addition, the groups behind the conference point out that healthy soil can reduce the amount of water necessary to grow crops by as much as 60 percent.

“Bringing soil to the center of our consciousness and our planning is vital not only for the life of the soil, but also for the future of our society,” said Vandana Shiva, global activist and author of Soil Not Oil.

Shiva, a co-founder of the Regeneration International Working Group, added: “Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the health crisis, the climate crisis and the crisis of democracy.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Categories: Ecological News

NASA Releases Global Climate Change Projections

Wed, 06/10/2015 - 14:41

By NASA

NASA has released data showing how temperature and rainfall patterns worldwide may change through the year 2100 because of growing concentrations of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere.

The new NASA global data set combines historical measurements with data from climate simulations using the best available computer models to provide forecasts of how global temperature (shown here) and precipitation might change up to 2100 under different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. Image: NASA

The dataset, which is available to the public, shows projected changes worldwide on a regional level in response to different scenarios of increasing carbon dioxide simulated by 21 climate models. The high-resolution data, which can be viewed on a daily timescale at the scale of individual cities and towns, will help scientists and planners conduct climate risk assessments to better understand local and global effects of hazards, such as severe drought, floods, heat waves and losses in agriculture productivity.

“NASA is in the business of taking what we’ve learned about our planet from space and creating new products that help us all safeguard our future,” said Ellen Stofan, NASA chief scientist. “With this new global dataset, people around the world have a valuable new tool to use in planning how to cope with a warming planet.”

The new dataset is the latest product from the NASA Earth Exchange (NEX), a big-data research platform within the NASA Advanced Supercomputing Center at the agency’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. In 2013, NEX released similar climate projection data for the continental United States that is being used to quantify climate risks to the nation’s agriculture, forests, rivers and cities.

“This is a fundamental dataset for climate research and assessment with a wide range of applications,” said Ramakrishna Nemani, NEX project scientist at Ames. “NASA continues to produce valuable community-based data products on the NEX platform to promote scientific collaboration, knowledge sharing, and research and development.”

This NASA dataset integrates actual measurements from around the world with data from climate simulations created by the international Fifth Coupled Model Intercomparison Project. These climate simulations used the best physical models of the climate system available to provide forecasts of what the global climate might look like under two different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios: a “business as usual” scenario based on current trends and an “extreme case” with a significant increase in emissions.

The NASA climate projections provide a detailed view of future temperature and precipitation patterns around the world at a 15.5 mile (25 kilometer) resolution, covering the time period from 1950 to 2100. The 11-terabyte dataset provides daily estimates of maximum and minimum temperatures and precipitation over the entire globe.

NEX is a collaboration and analytical platform that combines state-of-the-art supercomputing, Earth system modeling, workflow management and NASA remote-sensing data. Through NEX, users can explore and analyze large Earth science data sets, run and share modeling algorithms and workflows, collaborate on new or existing projects and exchange workflows and results within and among other science communities.

NEX data and analysis tools are available to the public through the OpenNEX project on Amazon Web Services. OpenNEX is a partnership between NASA and Amazon, Inc., to enhance public access to climate data, and support planning to increase climate resilience in the U.S. and internationally. OpenNEX is an extension of the NASA Earth Exchange in a public cloud-computing environment.

NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives, and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.

Additional information about the NASA climate projection dataset is available at:
https://nex.nasa.gov/nex/projects/1356/

The dataset is available for download at:
https://cds.nccs.nasa.gov/nex-gddp/

For more information about NASA’s Earth science activities, visit:
http://www.nasa.gov/earth

Categories: Ecological News

World Oceans Day 2015

Mon, 06/08/2015 - 10:12
Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet

Since 2009, people around the world have celebrated World Oceans Day. The United Nations General Assembly took the concept, first proposed in 1992 and made it official on 5 December 2008. Since then, the event has grown and spread as the realization of the ocean’s importance to humanity has increased.

We have come to learn that oceans drive global systems that make it possible to live on this earth. So much of what we take for granted – oxygen, rainfall, much of our food – is dependent on the health of the ocean.

As understanding grows it is apparent that management of this global resource is of prime importance.

“Together let’s ensure oceans can sustain us into the future. Let us reflect on the multiple benefits of the oceans. Let us commit to keep them healthy and productive and to use their resources peacefully, equitably and sustainably for the benefit of current and future generations.” Ban Ki-moon Did you know:
  • Oceans cover three quarters of the Earth’s surface, contain 97 percent of the Earth’s water, and represent 99 percent of the living space on the planet by volume. To date only a little over 1 percent of the ocean is protected.
  • An estimated 50-80 percent of all life on earth is found under the ocean surface and the oceans contain 99 percent of the living space on the planet. Less than 10 percent of that space has been explored by humans.
  • Tiny marine plants called phytoplankton release half of all oxygen in the atmosphere through photosynthesis.
  • The oceans account for 96 percent of all the water on the surface of the Earth, the remainder being freshwater, in the form of rivers, lakes and ice.
  • The ocean absorbs approximately 25 percent of the CO2 added to the atmosphere from human activities each year, greatly reducing the impact of this greenhouse gas on the climate.
  • Oceans absorb about 30 percent of carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impacts of global warming.
  • Total carbon deposits in coastal systems such as such as mangroves, salt marshes and seagrass meadows may be up to five times the carbon stored in tropical forests.
  • Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods.
  • Globally, the market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is estimated at $3 trillion per year or about 5 percent of global GDP.
  • Oceans contain nearly 200,000 identified species, but actual numbers may lie in the millions.
  • Oceans serve as the world’s largest source of protein, with more than 2.6 billion people depending on the oceans as their primary source of protein.
  • Marine fisheries directly or indirectly employ over 200 million people.Subsidies for fishing are contributing to the rapid depletion of many fish species and are preventing efforts to save and restore global fisheries and related jobs, causing ocean fisheries to generate US$ 50 billion less per year than they could.
  • As much as 40 percent of the world oceans are heavily affected by human activities, including pollution, depleted fisheries, and loss of coastal habitats.
  • Source: United Nations 

As the importance of the oceans is better understood, they are being brought more into focus. The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) has organized a full day dedicated to the ocean’s role in the climate system, ahead of the global climate change negotiations taking place during the (COP21) at the end of 2015 in Paris.

As stated on the UN website, “The purpose of this 2015 World Oceans Day, as an official COP21 event, is to mobilize and unite political actors, scientists, youth and civil society for the protection of marine ecosystems and to place the ocean at the heart of the climate change negotiations. Until now, the main focus of the negotiations has been mostly on greenhouse gas emissions, while ocean related issues have remained overlooked.”

Around the World

People everywhere are celebrating World Oceans Day 2015 in different ways. In Borneo, a conservation group called Tropical Research and Conservation Centre restore damaged coral reef ecosystems using diving volunteers. Save the Sea Restaurant Campaign in Germany and the UK is a collaboration between The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) and top seafood and Michelin-starred restaurants to raise money and awareness for their work to secure truly sustainable, well-managed fisheries. Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco is celebrating World Oceans Day for a full week! Sea Speaks to the Soul in Dubai is raising awareness to reduce plastic, planting native Ghaf trees, doing mangrove rehabilitation and beach clean ups.

The opportunities to contribute to sustaining our oceans are endless and continue all year round.

 

Categories: Ecological News

Today is World Environment Day

Fri, 06/05/2015 - 10:31

World Environment Day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972, and is celebrated every June 5th. The United Nations Environment Program describes WED as its “principal vehicle for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment.” More than 100 nations will be involved in this year’s celebration, with all manner and scale of activities, including marathons, music, clean-ups and educational events.

This year’s World Environment Day theme is: “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care” – focusing on conscious consumption, food waste, water conservation, and energy consumption patterns.

As we strive to live within our planetary boundaries, while population growth and economic development persevere unabated, World Environment Day serves as an opportunity to channel our collective power to treat our planet and its resources responsibly.

For more information and to find an event near you, visit UNEP.

Categories: Ecological News

Last Chance Saloon

Mon, 06/01/2015 - 22:04
Hard bargaining in Bonn this week will probably decide whether the crucial climate talks in Paris in December can save human civilisation from ultimate collapse.

By Paul Brown

Trying to beat the heat in India, where the temperature in some southern states has recently topped 47°C.
Image: Jorge Royan via Wikimedia Commons

LONDON, 1 June, 2015 − The text of the agreement on how the world will tackle climate change and set targets that will keep global temperatures from rising more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels is being negotiated in Bonn, Germany, this week.

The 2°C limit has been set by politicians to prevent the planet overheating dangerously − but the cuts in carbon emissions required to achieve it have so far not been agreed.

It is this gap between the policy goals agreed  by world leaders and their lack of action to achieve them that the Bonn conference seeks to address.

The meeting, which opened today, will last for 10 days as working groups grapple with action to reduce carbon emissions, how to finance technology transfer, and how to adapt to sea level rise and other unavoidable consequences of present warming − such as the current heatwave affecting India, where temperatures in some southern states have topped 47°C.

Devastating Consequences

Scientists and environment groups have said that this year’s negotiations are humanity’s “Last Chance Saloon”. If steep emissions cuts are not agreed and implemented quickly, the global temperature has little chance of staying under 2°C − with devastating consequences for the natural world and human civilisation.

There are signs that momentum towards agreement is increasing. A report by Globe International, which will be given to delegates, reveals that three-quarters of the world’s annual emissions of greenhouse gases are now limited by national targets.

The 2015 Global Climate Legislation Study shows that the number of climate laws and policies aimed at limiting emissions passed by national governments had increased to 804 this year, up from 426 in 2009 when the Copenhagen climate talks collapsed, and from just 54 in 1997 when the Kyoto Protocol was agreed.

The lead author of the study, Michal Nachmany, a researcher at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, says: “With three-quarters of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions now covered by national targets, we can be more confident about the credibility of the pledges that countries will make ahead of the crucial summit in Paris.

“This growing amount of legislation provides evidence that the world’s major emitters are taking serious steps to tackle climate change in their countries.” ~ Professor Samuel Fankhauser

“While collectively these pledges are unlikely to be consistent with the international goal of avoiding global warming of more than 2°C, the existence of national legislation and policies should provide the opportunity for countries to strengthen the ambition of their emissions cuts after the summit.”

Professor Samuel Fankhauser, co-director of the Grantham Institute and co-author of the study, says: “Every five or so years, the number of climate laws and policies across the world has doubled. This growing amount of legislation provides evidence that the world’s major emitters are taking serious steps to tackle climate change in their countries.

“By writing their intentions into law, the world’s leaders have shown that international climate change talks do lead to national action in the vast majority of countries.”

The problem is, as the report points out, that current targets and timetables to achieve them are not enough to limit greenhouse gases sufficiently to get below the agreed 2°C limit.

Under Pressure

However,  politicians are coming under pressure to improve their pledges. Ahead of the Bonn meeting, a business summit in Paris showed that many companies are pushing their political leaders for action.

This is a marked change from the last two decades, a time when the fossil fuel industry has lobbied to slow decisions on tackling climate change.

In Paris, 25 worldwide business networks − representing 6.5 million companies from 130 countries − demanded political action to achieve a low-emission, climate-resilient economy.

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the organiser of the Bonn conference, says: “With some 200 days to the UN climate convention conference in Paris, the growing momentum for change and for action is rapidly gaining ground across countries, companies, cities and citizens.

“News of yet another group of stakeholders committing to long-term emission reduction targets or ambitious investments in renewable energies is emerging almost daily – building confidence and a sense of ‘can do’ among nations as we enter the final six months of 2015.”

Whether this optimism is justified will be seen in the next week as the working groups refine the technical agreements that heads of governments are expected to sign in Paris in December.

Recurring Problems

Among the many recurring problems that have created a stumbling block is the amount of money pledged by rich nations to developing countries to help them avoid fossil fuel use and adapt to climate change. So far, the pledges to provide billions of dollars in technical help and adaptation have not been followed by the cash.

As well as trying to seal an agreement for action after 2020, the Bonn conference is also working  to accelerate action in the five years until then – which  are currently covered by no legally-binding international agreement. The particular focus here will be on  scaling up the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency in urban areas.

The fact that China and the US are now working together to reach an agreement in Paris is also helping move the talks along.

However, some developing countries, notably India, are still saying their priority is lifting their poor out of poverty, rather than reducing their emissions.

To this end, India is exploiting far more of its coal reserves, and jeopardising hopes of global reductions in emissions. – Climate News Network

 

Categories: Ecological News

Norway’s $900bn Sovereign Fund to Cut Coal Investments

Mon, 06/01/2015 - 10:24

By Tierney Smith

Creative Commons: Greg Goebel, 2012

In a move sending shock waves through international energy markets, Norway is on the cusp of abandoning most of its coal investments, following an unanimous recommendation by a parliamentary committee on Thursday.

The bipartisan agreement reached by the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs calls for the country’s US$900 billion Sovereign Wealth Fund to divest its holdings in companies that generate more than 30 percent of their output or revenues from coal-related activities from the beginning of next year.

The move has been welcomed by campaigners as a sign that the country is “really taking a lead” on climate action.

Arild Hermstad from the Norwegian NGO “The Future in our Hands” said:

“Coal is bad for all aspects of our environment: it destroys landscapes, contaminates water resources, pollutes the air and is the number one threat for our climate. Such investments are not in line with the values of Norwegian society, and the unanimous vote of the Finance Committee means that this is now recognised across all party lines.”

Campaigners estimate that the move could see as much as $5.5 billion divested – around half of the fund’s current US $11 billion of coal holdings – including investments in companies such as Germany’s RWE, China’s Shenhua, Duke Energy from the United States, Australia’s AGL Energy, and Poland’s PGE.

Norwegian MPs say the move represents a “great victory for our climate”, breaks “new ground for institutional investors” and sets a strong precedent for funds around the world to abandon “the world’s poorest performing sector” in the face of mounting climate risk.

Norway has been in the spotlight in recent weeks, with environmental campaigners putting the country’s massive fund in their sights.

Today’s decision marks one of the biggest wins for the global divestment campaign, which has recently secured commitments from the Church of Englandthe University of Edinburgh, and many more.

Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org said:

“If you’d told any of us, three years ago, that the planet’s largest sovereign wealth fund would begin divesting, we would have laughed. The way this idea–that the world has far more fossil fuel than it can burn–has spread is an enormously hopeful sign. There’s much work to be done taking on coal, oil, and gas but the momentum is definitely on our side.”

With Norway’s fund managers regarded as some of the best globally, this move should also send a chill down the spin of investors in dirty fossil fuels globally.

IEEFA director of finance, Tom Sanzillo said:

“This is a financially defensive and prudent course of action to protect the Fund from further losses from its coal-mining and coal-burning power-generation investments. Coal markets globally are in the midst of a wrenching structural decline. No investment fund in the world—be it university, pension or institutional—can make a compelling financial case to hold these equities in their portfolio any longer.”

Commentators warn the Norwegian Parliament’s decision, which will be finalised on June 5, will create a domino effect on the rest of the investments sector.

See more at: http://tcktcktck.org

Categories: Ecological News

‘Putin’s Tigers’ are Thriving in the Wild

Fri, 05/29/2015 - 23:45

By Dr. Maria N. Vorontsova
IFAW

This month marks the one year anniversary of the biggest Siberian tiger release in history. Four of the five Amur (aka Siberian) tigers released last year in the Russian Far East have adapted successfully to life in the wild. Newly released video captured by a camera trap positioned at the Khingan Nature Reserve shows a healthy tigress, Ilona, marking her territory.

Satellite tracking and camera trap videos show that the rehabilitated orphan tigress continues to thrive in the Russian forests near the Chinese border. By tracking her movements, scientists have learned that she is hunting wolves, deer and wild boar.

“Success stories like Ilona are helping to change the opinion and policy of officials in the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources,” said Maria Vorontsova, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Russia director. “There was a general belief that it was impossible to rehabilitate and return orphan tiger cubs back to the wild. IFAW and our partner groups have now proven that it is indeed possible.”

Nicknamed “Putin’s tigers” after President Vladimir Putin’s participation in the release, all but one of the five tigers have successfully adapted to life in the wild. Kuzya, Ilona, Borya and Svetlaya have been tracked and are establishing territories of their own. Ustin was caught after months of wandering near human settlements, along the Chinese-Russian border and was ultimately taken to the Rostov-on-Don zoo due to public safety concerns.

The tigress Zolushka (which means Cinderella in Russian) was released in 2013 and was the first to be successfully rehabilitated and reintroduced to the wild. Scientists report that she is doing well and continues to thrive in the Bastak Nature Reserve. It is believed that she found a mate, Zavetny, and may already have given birth to cubs. If the young survive, they will increase the remaining population of approximately 400 wild Amur tigers.

With ongoing support from the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, a multi-group collaboration between IFAW, Special Inspection Tiger, A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Phoenix Foundation make this tiger rescue, rehabilitation and release possible.

About IFAW
Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org.

Categories: Ecological News

Heatwave Grips India

Fri, 05/29/2015 - 13:45

By Jon Queally
Common Dreams

Workers, the elderly, and the homeless are most vulnerable as severe weather hits hard and, yes, climate change is being called a factor.

The deathtoll related to an ongoing and “unprecedented” heatwave in India has soared to nearly 1,200 people, according to the nation’s health ministry on Wednesday, with no respite for hundreds of millions of people expected until at least the weekend.

According to officials quoted in the Hindustan Times, most of the victims have been construction workers, the elderly or the homeless. In regions across the subcontinent this week, temperatures have sweltered populations with thermometers pushing towards 50°C (or 122°F) and high levels of humidity stifling air quality. In response, India’s Meteorological Department has issued what are called “red box” warnings for various states where the maximum temperatures are expected to remain above 45°C.

“This year, the heatwave condition is unprecedented and there has been a large number of deaths. The Health Ministry is likely to come up with an advisory soon for all the states and common people,” a senior health Ministry official told the Press Trust of India (PTI).

As Pakistan Today reports, conditions may well get worse before they better:

Roads have melted in New Delhi, where forecasters said they expected the high temperatures to continue into next week — adding to the misery of thousands living on the capital’s streets with little shelter from the hot sun.

“Maximum temperatures won’t fall substantially. However, major relief can be expected from June 2 as there are indications of good showers,” [a local forecaster] said.

Hospitals in the worst-affected states were on alert to treat victims of heatstroke and authorities advised people to stay indoors and drink plenty of water.

Hundreds of people — mainly from the poorest sections of society — die at the height of summer every year across the country, while tens of thousands suffer power cuts from an overburdened electricity grid.

Authorities in the worst-hit state of Andhra Pradesh in southern India, where nearly 900 people have died since May 18, called for emergency water distribution areas to be set up.

As with ongoing flooding in Texas and Oklahoma in the United States this week, the extreme heat in India has been attributed to the convergence of seasonal weather patterns beset by the El Nino in the Pacific Ocean and the overall impact of increased global temperatures due to human-caused climate change. According to the International Business Times:

Experts say an El Nino, which leads to a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific, triggers scorching weather across Asia.

However, even without an El Nino the global warming in the last few decades has potential for damage.

“On account of 0.8 degree warming during the past hundred years, one must expect more heat waves even without an El Nino. El Nino will increase the atmospheric temperature and hence add to the problems created by global warming,” J Srinivasan, chairman, Divecha Centre for Climate Change at Indian Institute of Science told IBTimes UK.

Additionally, as the Times of India reported earlier this week, a recent study by the Germany-based Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research warned that specific areas India, including highly-populated urban enclaves like Hyderabad, can expect more hot days in the future thanks to the global warming.

If you think the heat wave this year is the worst, prepare for tougher times ahead. Hyderabad is likely to get hotter in the next few years, with the average number of severe heatwave days increasing.

Generally the city suffers a maximum of five heatwave days’ in a year. According to experts, this number will go up to as many as 40 days per year in the future. [...]

A heat wave’ day is when the temperature is five degrees Celsius or more than the average temperature recorded on that particular day over the last three decades. For example, the temperature recorded on Saturday was 43.6 degrees Celsius against a normal maximum temperature of 39.5 degrees Celsius recorded on the same day in the last few years. According to the Met officials, this is five degrees Celsius more than the normal temperature.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Categories: Ecological News

Clean Water Rule Protects Streams and Wetlands Critical to Public Health, Communities, and Economy

Thu, 05/28/2015 - 04:55

By EPA.gov

Does not create any new permitting requirements and maintains all previous exemptions and exclusions

In an historic step for the protection of clean water, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army finalized the Clean Water Rule today to clearly protect from pollution and degredation the streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation’s water resources.

The rule ensures that waters protected under the Clean Water Act are more precisely defined and predictably determined, making permitting less costly, easier, and faster for businesses and industry. The rule is grounded in law and the latest science, and is shaped by public input. The rule does not create any new permitting requirements for agriculture and maintains all previous exemptions and exclusions.

“For the water in the rivers and lakes in our communities that flow to our drinking water to be clean, the streams and wetlands that feed them need to be clean too,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Protecting our water sources is a critical component of adapting to climate change impacts like drought, sea level rise, stronger storms, and warmer temperatures – which is why EPA and the Army have finalized the Clean Water Rule to protect these important waters, so we can strengthen our economy and provide certainty to American businesses.”

“Today’s rule marks the beginning of a new era in the history of the Clean Water Act,” said Assistant Secretary for the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy. “This is a generational rule and completes another chapter in history of the Clean Water Act. This rule responds to the public’s demand for greater clarity, consistency, and predictability when making jurisdictional determinations. The result will be better public service nationwide.”

People need clean water for their health: About 117 million Americans – one in three people – get drinking water from streams that lacked clear protection before the Clean Water Rule. America’s cherished way of life depends on clean water, as healthy ecosystems provide wildlife habitat and places to fish, paddle, surf, and swim. Clean and reliable water is an economic driver, including for manufacturing, farming, tourism, recreation, and energy production. The health of our rivers, lakes, bays, and coastal waters are impacted by the streams and wetlands where they begin.

Protection for many of the nation’s streams and wetlands has been confusing, complex, and time-consuming as the result of Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006. EPA and the Army are taking this action today to provide clarity on protections under the Clean Water Act after receiving requests for over a decade from members of Congress, state and local officials, industry, agriculture, environmental groups, scientists, and the public for a rulemaking.

In developing the rule, the agencies held more than 400 meetings with stakeholders across the country, reviewed over one million public comments, and listened carefully to perspectives from all sides. EPA and the Army also utilized the latest science, including a report summarizing more than 1,200 peer-reviewed, published scientific studies which showed that small streams and wetlands play an integral role in the health of larger downstream water bodies.

Climate change makes protection of water resources even more essential. Streams and wetlands provide many benefits to communities by trapping floodwaters, recharging groundwater supplies, filtering pollution, and providing habitat for fish and wildlife. Impacts from climate change like drought, sea level rise, stronger storms, and warmer temperatures threaten the quantity and quality of America’s water. Protecting streams and wetlands will improve our nation’s resilience to climate change.

Specifically, the Clean Water Rule:

  • Clearly defines and protects tributaries that impact the health of downstream waters. The Clean Water Act protects navigable waterways and their tributaries. The rule says that a tributary must show physical features of flowing water – a bed, bank, and ordinary high water mark – to warrant protection. The rule provides protection for headwaters that have these features and science shows can have a significant connection to downstream waters.
  • Provides certainty in how far safeguards extend to nearby waters. The rule protects waters that are next to rivers and lakes and their tributaries because science shows that they impact downstream waters. The rule sets boundaries on covering nearby waters for the first time that are physical and measurable.
  • Protects the nation’s regional water treasures. Science shows that specific water features can function like a system and impact the health of downstream waters. The rule protects prairie potholes, Carolina and Delmarva bays, pocosins, western vernal pools in California, and Texas coastal prairie wetlands when they impact downstream waters.
  • Focuses on streams, not ditches. The rule limits protection to ditches that are constructed out of streams or function like streams and can carry pollution downstream. So ditches that are not constructed in streams and that flow only when it rains are not covered.
  • Maintains the status of waters within Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems. The rule does not change how those waters are treated and encourages the use of green infrastructure.
  • Reduces the use of case-specific analysis of waters. Previously, almost any water could be put through a lengthy case-specific analysis, even if it would not be subject to the Clean Water Act. The rule significantly limits the use of case-specific analysis by creating clarity and certainty on protected waters and limiting the number of similarly situated water features.

A Clean Water Act permit is only needed if a water is going to be polluted or destroyed. The Clean Water Rule only protects the types of waters that have historically been covered under the Clean Water Act. It does not regulate most ditches and does not regulate groundwater, shallow subsurface flows, or tile drains. It does not make changes to current policies on irrigation or water transfers or apply to erosion in a field. The Clean Water Rule addresses the pollution and destruction of waterways – not land use or private property rights.

The rule protects clean water necessary for farming, ranching, and forestry and provides greater clarity and certainty to farmers about coverage of the Clean Water Act. Farms across America depend on clean and reliable water for livestock, crops, and irrigation. The final rule specifically recognizes the vital role that U.S. agriculture serves in providing food, fuel, and fiber at home and around the world. The rule does not create any new permitting requirements for America’s farmers. Activities like planting, harvesting, and moving livestock have long been exempt from Clean Water Act regulation, and the Clean Water Rule preserves those exemptions.

The Clean Water Rule will be effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

More information: www.epa.gov/cleanwaterrule and http://www.army.mil/asacw

Categories: Ecological News

Get a (Red) Nose Job

Thu, 05/21/2015 - 09:51
May 21, 2015 is the inaugural USA Red Nose Day It’s a tough act to follow…

For 30 years, the Brits with all their dour, dry humor, have raked in mega bucks in their Red Nose Day, a fundraiser for impoverished children at home and abroad, presented by the BBC.

This year, the first Red Nose Day USA is being celebrated and broadcast in a special 3-hour live event on NBC tonight, May 21. Walgreens and M&Ms are co-partnering the event.

Every Little Bit Helps

For many, the concept of charity giving to any extent that can make a difference is defined by the likes of the Gates Foundation, Angelina Jolie, Robert Redford, who give millions of dollars to support various causes, many aimed at reducing poverty around the world.

Comic Relief brought Red Nose Day to the people, giving them the opportunity to laugh and have fun, all the while making it possible to donate small amounts to help a huge cause. This concept works in the UK and the hoopla surrounding the first U.S. RND indicates that the concept of fun and giving will work here in the United States.

With climate change wreaking havoc around the globe, help is desperately needed, not just in rural areas of Africa and Asia, but here in the United States. Drought is threatening children and families in California’s Central Valley; fierce tornadoes have whipped through southern states, leaving devastation in their wake – and children and families in dire need.

In Africa and Asia, where poverty is a way of life to many, funds from charity events such as this, bring much needed help to those in need.

The charities earmarked to receive funds from this RND event are already on the ground helping the needy, and this extravaganza will help them continue their work.

Comic Relief, the 501(c)(3) charity and sister site to the UK charity of the same name is the lead fundraiser for the event, with 12 charities slated to benefit from the fundraiser. The pre-selected charity partners are Boys & Girls Clubs of America; charity: water; Children’s Health Fund; Feeding America; Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance; the Global Fund; LIFT; National Council of La Raza; National Urban League; Oxfam America; Save the Children and United Way.

The Fun-Raiser

The line-up for this event is spectacular! Ed Sheeran, Josh Groban, Christian Slater, Al Roker, Andy Cohen, Kellan Lutz, Kermit the Frog Julia Roberts, Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon, Blake Shelton, Richard Gere, Reese Witherspoon, Jack Black, Michelle Rodriguez, Julianne Moore, Pharrell, One Direction, Keith Urban, John Mellencamp, John Krasinski, Zac Efron, Nick Cannon are just a few of the stars who will be joining hosts Seth Meyers, David Duchovny and Jane Krakowski. Each host will present and hour-long portion of the show that is happening at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom.

The UK version of the event, one of the BBC’s highest-rated Friday night shows has raised over $1 billion in donations over the past 30 years. It will be fun to see if the original concept of creator/producer Richard Curtis (“Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Bridget Jones Diary,” “Notting Hill”), that “mass media and celebrities can help raise money and increase awareness of poverty in order to save and change millions of lives” is a viable concept in the U.S.

Go to the Red Nose Day site to donate – all amounts, large or small, are greatly appreciate by those on the receiving end.

Categories: Ecological News

Rhino Return to Samburu

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 22:29

By Wanjiku Kinuthia
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

Critically endangered black rhino reintroduced to a native habitat 25 years after the last individual was poached in the area

Black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis)

Monday (May 18, 2015) the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy have embarked on a relocation programme in a bid to expand black rhino habitat in the country, and boost populations of the iconic species.

At least 20 preselected rhinos will be moved from Lewa, Nakuru and Nairobi National Parks to a sanctuary within the community owned and operated Sera Community Conservancy.

Two rhino have already been successfully moved and released to their new home.

This will be the first time in East Africa a local community will be responsible for the protection and management of the highly threatened black rhino, signaling a mind shift in Kenya’s conservation efforts. This pioneering move demonstrates the Government of Kenya’s confidence in the local community, and materialises the promise to support community-based conservation initiatives as provided for by the new Wildlife Act, 2013.

It is expected that the presence of black rhino in Samburu County will be a significant boost to tourism in the area whilst providing new job opportunities for local communities. Parts of the Sanctuary will also be set aside for dry season grazing for local herders, and the community look forward to increased overall security in the area.

The candidates earmarked for translocation range from six and a half years to 20 years old. Candidates are meant to reflect natural demographics and encourage natural breeding conditions. All animals will be fitted with satellite-based transmitters for close monitoring. The community rangers have been trained by Lewa and KWS in data gathering, anti-poaching operations, bush craft and effective patrolling – and will have the back up of the Lewa, NRT and KWS Anti-Poaching Units.

According to International Union for the Conservation of Nature, populations of the Eastern black rhino (Diceros bicornis michaeli) plummeted by 98% between 1960 and 1995 primarily as a result of poaching and hunting.

However, conservation efforts have managed to stabilise and increase numbers in most of the black rhino’s former ranges since then. Kenya’s population has increased from 381 since 1987 to a current estimate of 640. It is projected to rise significantly in the near future, especially with growing partnerships between government, communities and conservation organisations. It is hoped that the new rhino sanctuary will benefit Kenya’s black rhino population

Sera Community Conservancy, established in 2001is a member of NRT umbrella. It is governed by a council of elders, an elected board of trustees, a management team and the residing communities which include the Samburu, Rendille and Borana.

This translocation is jointly supported by Samburu County Government, USAID, The Lundin Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, San Diego Zoo, St. Louis Zoo, Tusk Trust, The US Fish and Wildlife Service, Zurich Zoo, and several private philanthropists.

The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is an award-winning catalyst and model for community conservation, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and features on the IUCN Green List of successful protected areas. Lewa is the heart of wildlife conservation, sustainable development and responsible tourism in northern Kenya and its successful working model has provided the framework on which many conservation organisations in the region are based. www.lewa.org

The Northern Rangelands Trust is an umbrella organisation that aims to establish resilient community conservancies that transform lives, secure peace, and conserve natural resources. There are now 27 NRT-member community conservancies across northern and coastal Kenya, home to over 300,000 people who are managing over 31,000 square kilometres of land and safeguarding a wide range of species and habitats. NRT is now widely seen as a model of how to support community conservancies, and its success has helped shape new government regulations on establishing, registering and managing community conservancies in Kenya. www.nrt-kenya.org

The Kenya Wildlife Service is a State Corporation established by the Act of Parliament, CAP 376, (now repealed by Wildlife Act, 2013) with a mandate to conserve and manage wildlife in Kenya. It also has a sole jurisdiction over 27 both terrestrial and marine National Parks and oversight role in the management of 28 national reserves and private sanctuaries.www.kws.go.ke

Categories: Ecological News