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The Energy East Pipeline is Dead, but Three Tar Sands Pipeline Projects Remain

Anti-pipeline activists celebrate victory, caution against complacence

Last week, energy company TransCanada pulled the plug on its 2,800-mile Energy East Pipeline and Eastern Mainline projects, which would have shipped 1.1 million barrels of crude oil from the Athabasca tar sands to refineries in Eastern Canada. The move was celebrated as a victory by environmentalists and Indigenous people pushing for a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

arial view of Athabasca Tar SandsPhoto by Dru Oja Jay, DominionIf built, the three other massive pipeline projects —TransCanada’s Keystone XL, Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement project Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project — would transport millions of barrels of oil per day from the Athabasca tar sands mines (pictured above) to refineries along the Canadian and US coast.

“This is a tremendous battle victory in the greater fight to keep fossil fuels in the ground and for climate justice for Indigenous nations,” Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network’s Keep It In The Ground project, said in a statement. The announcement, Goldtooth said, “supports the validity and strength of an Indigenous rights-based approach to win these battles. All along the Energy East pipeline route First Nations took a stand to defend their inherent rights, protect their water and Mother Earth and resist the colonial actions of Canada and its oil regime.”

But the work is far from over — three other massive tar sands pipeline projects representing millions of barrels of oil per day loom in the distance.

Depending on who you talk to, there are a few explanations for TransCanada ending the billion-dollar Energy East project, which happens to be the second major pipeline project to be cancelled following the end of the $7.9-billion Northern Gateway pipeline in 2016. Theories include relentless resistance, especially from Indigenous communities whose traditional territories and waters were located on or near the pipeline route, as well as over-regulation by various levels of government and forecasts of a continuing dip in global oil prices and production that made the project less economically attractive.

The Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, a coalition of First Nations and Native American tribes across North America attributed the pipeline’s demise to grassroots activism.

“Both the Northern Gateway fight and this Energy East one show that when First Nations stand together, supported by non-Indigenous allies, we win,” Grand Chief Serge Simon of the Mohawk Council of Kanestake said on behalf of the Treaty Alliance.

TransCanada, …more

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Conservationists Sound Alarm on Plummeting Giraffe Numbers

Pending US Endangered Species Act listing could support recovery efforts, say advocates

Picture an animal enrobed in a fiery, jigsaw-patterned coat. A creature of such majestic height that it towers amongst the trees. As your eyes make their way up its long neck that appears to defy gravity, you find crowned atop its head two Seussian, horn-like protrusions framing dark, curious eyes fanned by lashes. In its truest sense, the giraffe fits the description of a creature plucked from the pages of a fantastical story. Even its species name, Giraffa camelopardalis, comes from the ancient Greek belief that the giraffe is a peculiar camel wearing the coat of a leopard. Meanwhile, the Japanese word for giraffe and unicorn are one and the same.

photo of giraffe Photo by Julian Fennesy Nubian giraffe in Uganda. An estimated 2,645 Nubian giraffes remain in the wild.

Today, we continue to walk the Earth with these awe-inspiring creatures, which range across much of Africa. But giraffes are facing what many are calling a ‘silent extinction.’ Public awareness and global action is critically due. “These gentle giants have been overlooked,” appeals Sir David Attenborough in BBC’s “Story of Life”  documentary series aired in late 2016, urging that “time is running out.”

As word begins to get out about the difficulty giraffes are facing, a small, committed cohort are fighting for the species. They are working diligently in the field to learn more about the animals and their populations, cooperating with governments to preserve land giraffes depend on, and collaborating with communities to conserve their wildlife. Meanwhile, others are championing for giraffes on the legal frontlines, advocating for further protections. In particular, wildlife advocates have called for greater protections at the international level, as well as domestic restrictions on trade in giraffe parts in the United States.

The sharp decline of giraffe numbers over the past three decades led to an official change in their conservation status in December 2016, when the giraffe was “uplisted” from Least Concern status to Vulnerable — more specifically, “Vulnerable to Extinction” in the wild — on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. (Listings under the IUCN don’t come with specific protections, but provide valuable information about species’ status as well as attention to the threats they face.)  In making the decision, the IUCN cited an ongoing population decline of 36 to 40 percent between 1985 and 2015. This represents a change from approximately 106,191 to 114,416 mature individuals in 1985 down to 68,293 in …more

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Trump Nominates Coal Lobbyist for Top EPA Job Just Days after Puerto Rico Visit

Nomination comes as Caribbean scientists calls for urgent climate action in wake of Hurricane Maria

Even a week after his visit to the Hurricane ravaged island of Puerto Rico, President Trump is still having to defend his crass comments and insensitive actions when he was there.

Speaking over the weekend, Trump defended his widely criticized action of throwing paper towels into a crowd, which was an image that was beamed around the world.

photo of Hurricane Maria damagePhoto by Coast Guard NewsLocals were stranded after Hurricane Maria washed out a roads across Puerto Rico. Climate change has been linked to an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events like Hurricane Maria.

“They had these beautiful, soft towels. Very good towels,” Trump told the Christian network Trinity Broadcasting. “And I came in and there was a crowd of a lot of people. And they were screaming and they were loving everything. I was having fun, they were having fun,” he added. “They said, ‘Throw ’em to me! Throw ’em to me Mr. President!”

According to news report on NBC News, Trump also took credit for coming up with the term “fake.” “I think one of the greatest of all terms I’ve come up with is ‘fake,’” he said.

One of the greatest fallacies of this Presidency is that despite an unusually active Hurricane season, which scientists believe is being made worse by climate change, Preisent Trump still believes that climate change is fake.

He does not believe the science and facts staring at him in front of his face. Facts are not fake.

Dr. Michael Taylor, a physicist based at the University of the West Indies noted last week in the Guardian about the “unfamiliar” and “unprecedented” weather patterns the region was experiencing: “At no point in the historical records dating back to the late 1800s have two category five storms made landfall in the small Caribbean island chain of the eastern Antilles in a single year.”

He added: “Scientific analysis shows that the climate of the Caribbean region is already changing in ways that seem to signal the emergence of a new climate regime. Irma and Maria fit this pattern all too well.”

“But in the end”, wrote Taylor, “the future viability of the region is premised on collective global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Taylor points out that, due to the urgency of the problem, the Caribbean and other small island and developing states have argued for a limit to global warming of 1.5 degrees …more

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SeaWorld’s Advertisements Are Full Of Lies (Video)

In effort to reinvent its image, theme park resorts to fudging facts again

The International Marine Mammal Project released a new video last week that debunks many of the lies SeaWorld tells the public and its shareholders, lies that are increasingly getting the theme park and entertainment company into hot water.

At its core, SeaWorld is a company that exploits dolphins and whales. It makes money by keeping cetaceans in barren concrete tanks, where every aspect of their lives can be controlled and manipulated. Cetaceans are forced to perform and are denied the opportunity for retirement, since the company wants to continue profiting off of their performances until the day they sicken and die. Contrary to what SeaWorld’s spokespersons say, it does not care for the well being of anything besides their bottom lines.

This is why it is so adamantly against retiring any dolphin or whale to a seaside sanctuary — it wants to continue exploiting their “assets” as long as they can. In 2015, SeaWorld launched a huge public relations and media outreach effort to paint a more humane picture of the company, or as Fast Company put it, “Make You Forget About Blackfish” referring to the documentary that continues to cause significant financial woes for the company. 

As part of this PR makeover, and in an effort to justify its continued use of captive whales and dolphins, SeaWorld has put out advertisements attacking the rescue and release of Keiko, the orca who performed in the 1993 hit movie Free Willy, calling the effort was a “failure” because Keiko died in his home waters five years after he was freed.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Keiko the orcaPhoto courtesy of Free Willy Keiko FoundationAs part of it's PR makeover, SeaWorld has put out advertisements attacking the rescue and release of Keiko, the orca who performed in the 1993 hit movie Free Willy, calling the effort was a “failure” because Keiko died in his home waters five years after he was freed. In truth, those five years in the seaside sanctuary were likely the best he could have had after being released.

The truth is, that after filming wrapped, Keiko was left in a Six Flags park in Mexico City — a facility which now faces closure thanks to recently passed legislation banning cetacean captivity in that city. While at the park, where he spent his days languishing in a shallow pool with no protection from the blazing sun,


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Walruses Face ‘Death Sentence’ as Trump Administration Fails to List them as Endangered

Fish and Wildlife Service decides Pacific walrus may be able to adapt to loss of sea ice and is unlikely to be seen as endangered ‘in the foreseeable future’

The Trump administration has declined to list the Pacific walrus as endangered after deciding that the huge tusked mammals may be able to adapt to the loss of the sea ice that they currently depend upon.

Walrus resting on icePhoto by Sarah Sonsthagen, USGSA female walrus and her pup sitting on an ice floe in the Chukchi Sea."At this time, sufficient resources remain to meet the subspecies’ physical and ecological needs now and into the future," USFWS officials said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) that the walruses were unlikely to be considered endangered “in the foreseeable future”, defined as from now until 2060, adding: “At this time, sufficient resources remain to meet the subspecies’ physical and ecological needs now and into the future.”

Although the federal agency acknowledged the species was facing “stressors” from climate change – primarily the decline of sea ice, ocean warming and ocean acidification – it said the population was currently stable and could possibly adapt to the changing environment.

The decision wipes out a FWS finding in 2011, under Barack Obama’s administration, that the walruses were imperiled by climate change and should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. A listing didn’t take place at the time because the agency considered other at-risk animals to be of greater priority.

The Center for Biological Diversity, a conservation group that launched legal action to get Pacific walruses listed in 2008, said the decision could doom the species.

“This disgraceful decision is a death sentence for the walrus,” said Shaye Wolf, climate science director for the center.

“Walruses face extinction from climate change, and denying them critical protections will push them closer to the edge. The Trump administration’s reckless denial of climate change not only harms the walrus and the Arctic, but puts people and wildlife everywhere in danger.”

Pacific walruses, which are found in the Bering and Chukchi Seas that abut Alaska, are one the largest flipper-footed marine mammals in the world, with males weighing as much as 2 tons. The animals feast upon clams, mussels and the occasional seal, with males asserting dominance through lumbering clashes that involve their tusks and sheer brawn.

The animals rely upon sea ice for breeding, feeding and nursing their young, and a place to evade predators.

However, the Arctic region is heating up at twice the rate of the global average, causing a steady decline in sea ice. The loss of summer sea ice in …more

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A Tale of Two Wild Sisters

Saga of African wild dogs siblings offers a stark reminder of the challenges predators face in Man’s world

One of the greatest things about spending your time studying endangered African wild dogs (Lycaon Pictus) is getting to know the dogs as individuals. Also known as, African painted dogs or painted wolves, there are only 6,600 of these sub-Saharan, pack animals left in the wild. Their populations have been in steady decline largely due to their wide-ranging behavior coupled with habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict.

african wild dogAll photos by Megan Claase There are only 6,600 of these endangered sub-Saharan canines left in the wild.

Throughout my time at Botswana Predator Conservation Trust (BPCT), where I was part of a team studying large carnivores, the pack I spent most of my time with was Apoka, so-named because of a previous dominant female. Wild dogs are cooperative breeders, with the dominant pair typically being the only breeding pair within a pack. The other pack members help protect and raise the dominant pair’s offspring.  BPCT follows and studies eight wild dog packs in the eastern part of Botswana’s Moremi Game Reserve and the neighboring wildlife management areas.

The Apoka pack ’s dominant pair is now Darius — an immigrant male of unknown origin, and Seronera — a disperser from the formerly formidable Mathews pack. In wild dog society new packs are formed when dispersing groups, male or female, from different packs meet up. Apoka pack has been around since 2013. (BPCT, which began as the Botswana Wild Dog Research Project in 1989, is one of the longest running conservation projects in Africa.)

When I first arrived at Dog Camp in mid 2015, Apoka pack had three surviving pups from their 2014 litter of five — the two sisters Trinity and Taryn, and their brother Titan. On average 50 percent of pups survive to yearling stage; this pack had just managed that. My first impression of these three dogs was that they were curious, playful and they stuck together.

As I spent more time with the pack I began to observe the more subtle details of wild dog pack dynamics. At the time, Trinity, Taryn, and Titan were still pups; the best fed dogs in the pack. Upon making a kill, adult wild dogs will step back from their prey, allowing the pups to eat their fill. Sometimes, with small kills and lots of pups, the adults go hungry and have to hunt again. As these three got older, they started contributing more to hunts and submitting their food …more

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An Unlikely Alliance Holds Strong against Keystone XL

In the fields of Nebraska, Jane Kleeb has grown a bipartisan coalition of farmers, ranchers, tribes and environmental advocates to fight an international pipeline

Jane Kleeb is a prairie populist. In 2010, she founded the grass-roots organization Bold Nebraska to fight for progressive issues in the red state of Nebraska. Within a few months, Kleeb learned about a pipeline proposed by TransCanada, and she has been fighting it ever since.

Known as Keystone XL (not to be confused with the Dakota Access Pipeline that was challenged at Standing Rock) this pipeline would run from Canada to Nebraska’s border with Kansas. It threatens the property rights of farmers and ranchers; the sovereign rights of tribes; the Sandhills, a unique stretch of dunes and grass that covers a quarter of the state and provides habitat for wildlife and recharges the aquifer; and the Ogallala Aquifer itself, an immense underground reservoir of fresh water that supplies the …more

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