For sustainable conservation, women’s reproductive health and rights need to be guaranteed
The clock is ticking and global environmental problems are mounting, with droughts, biodiversity loss, and acidic oceans and much more taking a toll on the planet.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s World Congress, currently taking place in Hawai’i, is tackling this growing list of threats to the environment. The IUCN is recognized for its Red List of Threatened Species, an “inventory” of the world’s plant and animal species. The latest list was just released, and of the more than 82,000 species assessed by the IUCN, nearly 30 percent are threatened with extinction.
Photo by Max Phillips/Jeremy Buckingham MLC
The conference theme is “Planet at the Crossroads.” The question facing the world today is, which direction will humanity choose, business as usual or saving the planet? Fortunately, there are some solutions to more effective conservation that today’s environmentalists are beginning to realize are too important to ignore.
Women at the Center
One of these solutions is to empower women and girls. Investing in women’s rights will allow women — who bear the larger brunt of environmental degradation and climate change — to deal with the increasingly severe environmental problems affecting communities worldwide.
This means ensuring education for women and girls, providing access to healthcare (including voluntary family planning services), recognizing greater land rights, reducing and eradicating gender and economic inequality, ending child marriage, and improving economic opportunities. When women’s needs are met, they are able to better manage resources, confront the effects of climate change and handle climate mitigation and adaptation, and support sustainable communities.
The IUCN Congress will conclude with a series of commitments, or motions, to help devise a conservation agenda for the coming years. Yet despite increasing awareness and commitments on how women’s empowerment benefits nature, women and gender issues are conspicuously absent from the final motions presented in Hawai’i.
“It’s absolutely shocking that none of the IUCN motions include any mention of women and gender,” says A Tianna Scozzaro, conference attendee and director of the Sierra Club’s Global Population and Environment Program, “especially given that gender inequalities, environmental degradation, and climate impacts hit women first and worst.”
Linking Conservation and Health
The only realistic solution to this conflict is to retire the grazing allotments on public lands
The recent killing of six members of the Profanity Peak wolf pack in NE Washington in retribution for the loss of a few cattle is emblematic of what is wrong with public land policy. As I write, trappers are out to kill the remaining pack members- including 4-month old pups.
What is significant about the destruction of this pack is that the Profanity Peak wolves roamed national forest lands. These are our lands. They belong to all Americans and are part of our national patrimony.
Currently private commercial businesses such as the livestock industry are allowed to use public lands if they do not damage, degrade and impoverish our public lands heritage. Clearly the killing of this pack violates that obligation and responsibility.
What is particularly egregious about the on-going slaughter of the Profanity Pack is that it was essentially a preventable conflict. Had the rancher, whose cows invaded the wolf pack’s territory, been required to use other public lands, or better yet, simply lease private pasture, there would have been no livestock losses, hence wolf deaths.
Placing cows on top of a wolf pack territory is analogous to, and irresponsible as leaving picnic baskets or coolers out in a campground. In most national parks, if you leave a cooler or other food available to bears, you are fined for this careless behavior. We don’t blame the bear if it happens to eat that food. But when it comes to the livestock industry, we essentially allow four-legged picnic baskets to roam at will on our lands, and should a predator – be it a coyote, cougar, bear or wolf – kill one of those mobile picnic baskets, we don’t hold the rancher responsible, we kill the public wildlife.
This represents the wrong priorities.
We expect different behavior from people using public resources. I can, and do, mark up and highlight passages in books that I own in my personal library, but it would be inappropriate for me to mark up or otherwise damage books in a public library.
In a similar manner, we should expect different consequences for livestock owners who willingly use public lands (at almost no cost I might add) for their private commercial interests. In this case and others like it across the public lands of the West, we should expect ranchers …more
Largest drop recorded in China and India as both nations begin to move away from coal
The amount of coal power capacity under development worldwide saw a dramatic drop in the first half of 2016, mainly due to shifting policies in Asia, according to a survey by CoalSwarm's Global Coal Plant Tracker.
Overall, the “coal plant pipeline”—the total amount of coal-fired generating capacity in pre-construction planning—dropped from 1,090 gigawatts (GW) at the beginning of 2016 to 932 GW in July. The total reduction, 158 GW, or 14% of the previous total, is nearly equal to the entire coal-fired generating capacity of the European Union (162 GW).
The largest drop in the pre-construction pipeline was recorded in China (114 GW), followed by India (40 GW). Both countries recently announced major policy moves away from coal.
In April, China announced sweeping restrictions aimed at proposed coal-fired power plants in 13 provinces. In June, India’s Ministry of Power issued an assessment stating that no further power plants would be needed in the next three years, and “any thermal power plant that has yet to begin construction should back off.”
In Southeast Asia, several countries have taken steps toward reducing or delaying new coal power capacity. In March, Vietnam revised its Power Development Plan VII, canceling or postponing 23 GW of planned coal plants. Indonesia's RUPTL 2016-2025, covering all power development in the coming decade, showed a rescheduling of over 7 GW of proposed coal power capacity to later years. In July, Philippines Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez announced new plans to prioritize renewable energy over coal in the permitting process.
Despite the global reduction in the coal power pipeline, the level of capacity still in planning and construction worldwide is enough to exceed the global carbon budget for limiting warming to 1.5°C. Further, a new report from the IEA shows 6.5 million deaths a year from air pollution, with coal a main factor.
Among world regions, East Asia continues to have the highest amount of capacity under development in all status categories* except permitted proposals, followed by South Asia:
Altogether there are 932 GW of pre-construction coal proposals (announced, pre-permit, and permitted) and an additional 350 GW under construction.
While slowing in East and South Asia, coal proposals ticked up in Africa and Eurasia. Egypt in particular has been aggressively pursuing new coal plants as an alternative to natural gas. Proposals also increased in Mongolia, mainly for mega coal projects to export power …more
Dispute between WWF and Survival International highlights how some conservation efforts continue to displace Indigenous peoples
Complaints about deforestation and human rights abuses in an African nation are so common that, sadly, they hardly make headlines anymore. But when the complaints are leveled at one of the biggest environmental groups in the world – that’s unusual enough to draw attention.
Photo by Zuzu/Flickr
Survival International, a nonprofit that campaigns for the rights of Indigenous people worldwide, has lodged a formal complaint this year against World Wildlife Fund for Nature, contending that conservation group bears some blame for the harassment and displacement for the Baka people in three national parks that WWF helped create in Cameroon.
The Baka, a semi-nomadic forest-dwelling Indigenous tribe who live in the tropical rainforests of southern Cameroon, have allegedly been abused and booted off their lands by “ecoguards” funded by the WWF, one of the world’s largest and best-known environmental organizations.
In February, Survival complained that anti-poaching squads, financed and equipped in part by WWF, subjected Baka people in Cameroon ( who are often called “pygmies”) to violence and denied them access to their lands. It alleges that the parks – established between 2001 and 2014 – have “engulfed almost all of the ancestral territory that the Baka had not already lost to the loggers, miners, and farmers.”
The complaint, filed with a Swiss government agency, cites violations of human rights and due diligence provisions of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development or OECD. The OECD is a Paris-based consortium made up of 35 countries, including the United States, whose stated mission is to promote the economic and social well-being of people globally. (The complaint was filed in Switzerland because that’s where WWF’s international headquarters is based) It says WWF didn’t make a serious enough effort to understand just how much of the forest area was occupied by the Baka, who traditionally survived on yams, fruit, honey, and wild game from the rainforests, and neither did the conservation group obtain the Baka’s full and informed consent before helping establish the parks.
The OECD says complaints against nonprofits alleging violations of the OECD guidelines are rare. (It usually receives complaints against multinational corporations.) And a grievance by one NGO against another? Unprecedented. A decision on the matter is still pending.
Lack of action flies in the face of warnings from major insurers, business analysts
At the G20 summit, which ended in China yesterday, world leaders again failed to set a deadline to end fossil fuel subsidies, seven years after they first committed to ending them. Even as G20 governments move to ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change, they’re adding fuel to the fire by dumping $444 billion of our money into polluting fossil fuel companies every year, undermining the spirit and the letter of the global climate deal.
Photo by Ron Mader
Each dollar our governments waste on fossil fuel subsidies pushes us closer to climate disaster, and makes the transition to clean energy more difficult by locking us into fossil fuel dependency. What’s more, we’re throwing away money we could use to change the course of history: development experts say that ending regressive fossil fuel subsidies and repurposing them could end as much as 70 percent of extreme poverty worldwide.
Over the past few months, the voices calling on G20 leaders to end fossil fuel subsidies have grown loud enough to rattle the halls of power. In June, G7 leaders urged all countries to phase out fossil fuel subsidies no later than 2025, while more than 200 civil society groups from around the world released a statement calling for an even earlier deadline of 2020 for the world’s largest economies – the G20 countries.
It’s not just the usual suspects calling for change: last week, major insurers with $1.2 trillion in assets under management, alongside the UK’s professional body for actuaries, released a statement calling on G20 leaders to commit to phasing out fossil fuel subsidies by 2020. Actuaries and insurance companies make a living assessing risk. When they say that fossil fuel subsidies are so risky they threaten our very existence, G20 leaders need to listen. Adding to the chorus, the Bloomberg View editorial board recently called fossil fuel subsidies “the world’s dumbest policy.” We agree.
But now that G20 leaders have again failed to act on fossil fuel subsidies in China, what can we do to make sure they finally wake up and set a 2020 phase-out deadline? Now is the time to push Germany — the next G20 host — to put …more
‘It kills everything’: conservationist warns over threat to other animals
Huddled around their hives, beekeepers around the south-eastern US fear a new threat to their livelihood: a fine mist beaded with neurotoxin, sprayed from the sky by officials at war with mosquitos that carry the Zika virus.
Photo by Allagash Brewing
Earlier this week, South Carolina beekeepers found millions of dead honey bees carpeting their apiaries, killed by an insecticide. Video posted by a beekeeper to Facebook showed thousands of dead insects heaped around hives, while a few survivors struggled to move the bodies of fellow bees.
“This is what’s left of Flowertown Bees,” a despondent keeper says in the video. Company co-owner Juanita Stanley told the Associated Press her farm looked “like it’s been nuked” and estimated 2.5 million bees were killed.
In another Facebook post, South Carolina hobbyist Andrew Macke wrote that he had lost “thousands upon thousands of bees” and that the spraying had devastated his business. “Have we lost our mind,” he wrote, “spraying poison from the sky?”
Around the US, bees and other pollinators contribute an estimated $29bn to farm income. Clemson University’s department of pesticide regulation is investigating the incident.
The program head, Dr Mike Weyman, said that though South Carolina has strict rules about protecting pollinators, county officials were using the neurotoxin, Naled, under a clause exempting them in a “clear and public health crisis”.
More than three dozen people have tested positive for Zika in South Carolina, Weyman said, and officials have made it a priority to prevent local transmissions through the Aedes aegypti mosquito.
“We don’t want one of those mosquitos having a blood meal on an individual we’ve already determined was positive,” Weyman said. “We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that [Zika] is up and running in Florida. If it gets in the mosquito population ... you’re playing catch-up.”
South Carolina’s protocol for Zika infections is to alert local officials of a carrier’s residence, which they “consider a ground zero”, Weyman said. Local authorities then target the local mosquitos in a 200-yard radius, in this case with spray.
Flowertown Bees was listed on local records but not in the state’s voluntary registry of pollinators, according to Weyman. “We know where the big ones are,” he said, “but as you can see this was a fairly large operation and …more
Untapped resource could replace power generated at Glen Canyon Dam
President Obama made a historic announcement Wednesday, saying that the federal government is considering investing in the geothermal power in the rock formations under the Salton Sea in Southern California. Considered to be "the most powerful geothermal reservoirs in the world," the Salton Sea announcement could play a critical role in the future management of the Colorado River.
Photo by Stephen Kallao
Fifty years ago, Glen Canyon Dam was built above the Grand Canyon, and the Colorado River was enslaved to generate electricity to feed the hunger of the booming southwestern cities and suburbs. The Colorado's pulsing flows had carved and nourished the Grand Canyon for millennium, but that came to a crashing halt when the gates were closed and the water was ponded in Lake Powell. The environmental damage and steady decline of one of our nation's crown jewels has led to many calls for restoration of the natural system through the removal of Glen Canyon Dam.
The dam's ability to provide power has shielded it from any serious attempt to bring it down. Times change though and, over the last 16 years, the historic drought in the Southwest U.S. has drained Lake Powell to historic lows, severely diminishing the potential to generate hydroelectricity from the massive turbines encased in Glen Canyon Dam. Water and electricity managers are scrambling to come up with a plan to prop up the lake above what's called "power pool" so they can continue to generate and sell power. Any such solution is, however, clearly a stop-gap measure to keep the dam operational and is doomed to fail when confronted by the realities of climate change.
Fortunately, Obama's announcement offers a true path to the future.
The Salton Sea announcement could create an opportunity to replace the hydroelectric power generated at Glen Canyon Dam and a path forward to restoring the Grand Canyon. The geothermal reservoirs under the Salton Sea are an untapped resource that could add power to the grid as Lake Powell is slowly drained and Glen Canyon Dam is removed. Lake Powell's water could be put into Lake Mead, its downstream sister, thus keeping one fully functioning hydroelectric facility on the grid. Further, this "geo-hydro power trade" could keep the federal government solvent in its current financial contracts to provide electricity to the Southwest U.S.