Category: Environment

If lead ammunition is bad for people and the environment, why do we still use it?

Concerns about regulation, skepticism about the science and misperceptions about costs are slowing the transition to nontoxic alternatives.

Andrea Goodnight knows firsthand what lead poisoning looks like. A veterinarian at the Oakland Zoo, Goodnight treats endangered California condors when testing shows dangerous levels of the toxic metal in their blood.

If blood lead levels get too high, condors, eagles and other raptors “regurgitate everything and can’t hold anything down, so basically they’re starving to death,” Goodnight says. “A very clinically ill bird is very distressing. They’re weak, they fall over, they just can’t feed themselves at all and eventually they die. To me, it’s an absolutely horrible way to die.”

These Fires Are Huge, Hidden and Harmful. What Can We Do?

Smoldering peat gives off massive quantities of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, but the search for solutions is on.

As forest fires devastated Fort McMurray, Alberta, last month, a different sort of fire may have started beneath the ground. Peat, a carbon-rich soil created from partially decomposed, waterlogged vegetation accumulated over several millennia and the stuff that fueled Indonesia’s megafires last fall, also appears in the boreal forests that span Canada, Alaska and Siberia. With the intense heat from the Fort McMurray fires, “there’s a good chance the soil in the area could have been ignited,” says Adam Watts, a fire ecologist at Desert Research Institute in Nevada.

Changes in Russian Law Threaten World Famous Nature Reserves

World Heritage sites and critical nature reserves in Russia will face new and expansive threats following a vote on Friday to reduce environmental protections across the country.

The Russian parliament vote weakens protections for natural areas and favors the expansion of private ski resorts over caring for the environment. The legal changes on environmental protection, the first in almost five decades, allow a variety of infrastructure – from hotels to ski trails – to be built on some of the world’s most famous nature reserves.

Persian Leopard Cubs Born in Russian Reintroduction Centre

Triplets have been born to a captive Persian leopard in a Russian breeding centre. The cubs are in good health and may one day be reintroduced to the wild as part of a reintroduction programme supported by WWF, Russian authorities and other partners.

Persian leopards are endangered globally and have been extinct in the Russia’s Western Caucasus region for about 100 years. A breeding and reintroduction centre was established in Sochi National Park to train cubs to live independently in hopes that they can one day repopulate the area.

Animal Poaching: How Tracking Technology Could Help Prevent Wildlife Crime, Extinctions

Over the past year, stories about animal welfare have gone viral via social media. In particular, the issues of holding animals in captivity, big game hunting and wildlife poaching have drawn significant criticism. A gorilla named Harambe was shot and killed at a Cincinnati zoo in June 2016 after a 3-year-old boy fell into his enclosure, prompting public debate over whether gorillas should be kept in zoos at all. In the summer of 2015, a beloved lion named Cecil was killed after a party of game hunters lured him away from the animal sanctuary in Zimbabwe where he had been living. Cecil’s death caused such outrage that the American dentist who shot him received death threats.

In February 2014, Prince William made animal welfare a cornerstone of his philanthropic goals. The Prince thrust anti-poaching policy into an international spotlight when he helped launch United for Wildlife, an organization dedicated to stopping the illegal trafficking of wildlife. As part of his efforts, he has held meetings with world leaders, including President Obama, and gave a major speech at the World Bank about the importance of a global commitment to stop the illegal trade.

China to Fight Pollution…With World’s Largest Air Purifier

For most people, one of the first things that comes to mind when they think of some of China’s largest cities is the massive amounts of pollution. This September, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection is partnering with a Dutch engineer to send the world’s largest air purifier on a tour of some of the country’s cities most effected by air pollution.

Daan Roosegaarde came up with the idea after a visit to Beijing in 2014 when he couldn’t see any of the city out of his hotel window, over thirty floors above the ground. After the trip Roosegaarde had the idea for the ion air purifier (similar to the types used in hospitals and homes) to filter some of the smallest, most dangerous particles of pollution out of the air.

Alligator Fatal Attacks and Encounters With Humans: Historical Data and Research

Reports of a Florida alligator dragging a 2-year-old boy into a lagoon at a Disney Resort in June 2016 have left media organizations and the public questioning how such a tragedy could have occurred. Meanwhile, state wildlife officials and animal experts have tried to explain the habits and characteristics of these large, predatory creatures to help audiences understand both the rarity of such an encounter and the dangers of humans being in or near gator habitats at night and during the summer, when alligators are more active.

A 2014 primer from the University of Florida provides a research-based overview of alligator behavior and outlines safety-related information. Academic research can also help put attacks and related incidents into a broader context. A 2005 study published in the journal Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, “Alligator Attacks on Humans in the United States,” reviews data gathered from state wildlife offices and newspaper reports from 1948 to 2004. The author, Ricky L. Langley of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, notes the following about the nature of attacks:

Living Amazon Report 2016

The Amazon is under pressure from unsustainable economic activities and is undergoing unprecedented change, according to WWF’s Living Amazon Report 2016 released today. The report highlights the regional and global realities that are impacting the Amazon and demonstrates why cooperation is so critical to the area’s future.

The Amazon spans eight countries and one overseas territory. It is home to 34 million people, 350 indigenous groups and one-tenth of the world’s species. According to the WWF report, more than 2,000 new species of plants and vertebrates have been described in the Amazon since 1999.

Despite the diversity and critical importance of the world’s largest rainforest and river system, the report warns about the dramatic increase in legislative actions to downgrade, downsize or degazette protected areas in the Amazon.

​Will Outrage Over Recent Murders Help Honduran Environmental Activists Achieve Their Goal?

Recent murders are affecting indigenous people’s efforts to protect the environment.

When Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres was gunned down in her home last spring the international community and even activists in the notoriously violent country were shocked. Her death followed threats related to her support for indigenous people fighting the construction of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam along the Gualcarque River.

A few days after her death Nelson García, another leader of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (known as COPINH), which Cáceres founded in 1993 to advocate for the native Lenca peoples’ rights, was also murdered.

Have these recent deaths made a difference in indigenous efforts to protect the environment? Though change is slow, there is some indication that they are not going unheeded.

“Berta had such an amazing support network and she had done so much great work in reaching out to other organizations both domestically and internationally that there’s this enormous outrage when she was assassinated,” says Danielle DeLuca, project manager for the Cambridge-based nonprofit Cultural Survival, which advocates for indigenous groups around the world.

This World Environment Day, can the sum of our actions be ZERO?

Over the past 40 years, World Environment Day has inspired millions to take action to help protect our planet. This year, together with our partners, WWF is urging everyone to join the fight against illegal wildlife trade.

Poaching and illegal trade represent grave threats to the world’s wildlife and wild places. Increasingly driven by international organized crime, they also constitute a major danger to communities that depend on wildlife and natural resources for lives and livelihoods.

The situation is critical. A record number of rhinos were poached in Africa last year, while around a million pangolins have been trafficked over the last decade. Of the 110,000 elephants that roamed the savannahs, wetlands and forests of the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania less than half a century ago, a mere 15,000 remain today. If this historic trend continues, WWF estimates that the entire elephant population of one of Africa’s oldest reserves could disappear within six years.

From Russia, With Blood: The Impact of Coal Exports to Britain

In my home country of Russia, open-cast coalmining is expanding, leading to growing environmental devastation and countless human rights abuses affecting indigenous peoples. Coal consumption within Russia is dropping, but exports have grown tremendously in recent years, with Britain the second-biggest consumer of Russian coal, after China. A new report, the Cost of Coal produced by my organization, Ecodefense, establishes a direct link between increased extraction and expanded coal exports over the past decade.

Over 60 per cent of Russian coal is extracted in the Kuzbass region of Siberia. Part of it – 15.6 per cent of total exports – is then transported almost 6,000 kilometres to be burned in British power stations. The human and environmental costs of this coal are high.

Elephants Could Disappear From Tanzania World Heritage Site Within Six Years

One of Africa’s oldest reserves could see its elephant population decimated by 2022 if urgent measures are not taken to stem industrial-scale poaching, according to a new analysis by WWF.

Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania’s largest protected area, was home to one of the greatest concentrations of African elephants on the continent, but rampant ivory poaching has seen the population reduced by 90 per cent in fewer than 40 years. Nearly 110,000 elephants once roamed the savannahs, wetlands and forests of Selous, but now only about 15,000 remain in the ecosystem.

The analysis, produced for WWF by Dalberg Global Development Advisors, shows how the loss of Selous’ elephants would have a negative effect on Tanzania’s nature based economy, putting the livelihoods of 1.2 million people at risk. Travel and tourism in Selous generate US$6 million annually, and the industry represents a combined yearly contribution of US$5 billion to the GDP of Tanzania, which holds world renowned assets such as Mount Kilimanjaro and Serengeti National Park.

‘I Do Not Want Any Children to Develop Cancer Like Me’, a Fukushima Resident Says

Independent filmmaker Ian Thomas Ash has uploaded to YouTube a four-part interview with a young woman from Fukushima Prefecture who has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Now 20, the interviewee was 15 years old when, following theMarch 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex lost power and the ability to cool fuel in the reactors. The lack of cooling caused a series of hydrogen explosions that severely damaged four of the six reactors at the Daiichi complex.

As a result of the explosions and subsequent fires, nuclear contamination was spread over a large part of Japan’s northeast. The young woman interviewed in the documentary, who wishes to remain unidentified, is one of 166 Fukushima residents who were 18 or younger at the time of the nuclear disaster who have been diagnosed with or suspected of having thyroid cancer (as of February 2016).

While some attribute the rise in cases of thyroid cancer to more rigorous screening, Ash notes that 74.5% of young people aged 18-21 as of April 1, 2014 who were living in Fukushima at the time of the nuclear accident have not yet taken part in the official thyroid ultrasound examination.

Lack of Support Endangers Rangers and Global Wildlife

Battling a global poaching crisis, wildlife rangers believe they lack the necessary equipment, training and support from their governments to protect themselves and the world’s threatened wildlife from poachers, according to a new WWF study released today at the World Ranger Congress in Colorado, USA.

Ranger Perceptions: Africa surveyed 570 rangers across 12 African countries and found that 82 per cent had faced a life-threatening situation while on duty. But 59 per cent felt they were insufficiently equipped and 42 per cent felt they lacked sufficient training to do their jobs safely and effectively.

These results echo the findings of a similar survey of Asia’s rangers, the majority of whom had also risked their lives in the line of duty and felt equally ill-equipped to perform their critical frontline tasks. Preliminary results from a third survey suggest that rangers in Latin America face similar challenges.

Standing Up To Multinational Big-Ag: Nepal, Monsanto, & USAID

Throughout history, controlling India was the key to controlling Nepal. British control over the landlocked nation was an extension of its control over India itself. Today, imperialism is far from a distant memory. It did not go “extinct,” rather, it merely “evolved.” Today, imperialism looks like national and international “aid programs” which are used as fronts and vectors for corporate special interests.

USAID, the World Food Programme, and others, for instance, serve as fronts and vectors for corporations like Monsanto. In turn, Monsanto seeks a monopoly over world food production and the immense wealth and influence associated with such control. Just like the British East Indies Company did for centuries (1600’s-1800’s) the West is using a combination of corporations and foundations to project geopolitical power. And few other sectors engender such sought-after geopolitical power like control over a nation’s agriculture.

The story of corporate-financier interests attempting to conquer Nepal through this method is not new. In 2011, when “Maoist” rebels finally took control of the country and Western-style “democracy” foisted upon the Nepali people, Western corporations were already positioned to overrun the levers of power by controlling the nation’s infrastructure.