Earth Island Institute logo, tap or click to visit the Institute home page

Go Back: Home > Earth Island Journal > Latest News

Latest News

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,


(0) Comments

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

(0) Comments

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

(0) Comments

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

(0) Comments

Reflections on Houston in a Time of Contradiction

From city strangled by fossil fuels, a call to fight for a more equitable future

Last October I visited Houston for the first time. I grew up in the Midwest and have spent half my life in New York City — perhaps the least Texan person possible — but aside from a few cultural differences involving cowboy boots and biscuit-heavy restaurant menus, my background turned out to be good preparation. I was neither cowed by Houston’s skyscrapers nor confused by the hospitality of a Southern city’s people, familiar as the unsolicited smiles Midwesterners give complete strangers.

oil development in HoustonPhoto by Louis Vest Neighborhoods bordering the Houston Ship Canal have some of the worst air pollution in the country.

Because of this, perhaps, I found Houston comfortable, utterly pleasant, welcoming, warm, easy, and yet … the downtown streets at night were deserted, wide, silent. And the ten days or so I spent there transpired strangely, feeling at times much longer than ten days, flipping dramatically between blasting air conditioning and sopping gulps of hot humidity, women and men in slick suits with shiny shoes, women and men in drab clothing covered in dust, or seen from afar framed by open flames on pits of scrap metal.

In New York City it’s easy to feel resilient to the woes of the planet; even in the throes of Hurricane Sandy, many of us continued to eat well and sleep well above 42nd Street. But in Houston, the relentlessness of the heat, the stark discrepancy of bright cleanliness with belches of pollution down the road … in Houston, perhaps, I saw in sharper focus the inevitability of a future many are already living. A deepening divide between “insiders” and “outsiders,” the last gasps of an industry that suckles while it strangles. And today, of course, as the shock of Hurricane Harvey transforms into an increasingly familiar monotony of government bureaucracy, plodding clean-up, and despair of lives lost and put on hold, today it is up to all of us — victims and witnesses alike — to name these contradictions and fight for a more equitable future for all.

But I knew none of this when I arrived in Houston last October, to attend a series of meetings led by the Building Equity and Alignment for Impact (BEA) initiative and hosted by local group Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS). The meeting brought together grassroots, national “green groups,” and philanthropy with the goal of building alignment around the then developing Clean Power Plan (CPP), that late Obama …more

(0) Comments

Phillips 66 Seeks to Increase Number of Oil Tankers on San Francisco Bay

Proposal could pose risk to local communities and wildlife

The oil company Phillips 66 wants to increase the number of tanker ships carrying crude oil across San Francisco Bay to its refinery in Rodeo — from 59 to 135 tankers per year. They have also proposed increasing the average amount of oil unloaded at Rodeo from 51,000 barrels to 130,000 barrels a day.

oil tanker in san francisco bayPhoto by Jill/Blue Moonbeam StudioAn oil tanker crosses under the Golden Gate Bridge. Phillips 66 has submitted a proposal to increase the number of oil takers that can carry oil to its bay-side refinery by more than two-fold.

More than doubling the number of oil tankers would increase the risk of oil spills in the Bay. Oil spilled in the water can kill birds and other wildlife, make the Bay unsafe for recreation, and contaminate local beaches.  

Plus, the company’s proposal raises other concerns. The increased tanker traffic would likely carry dirty, heavy tar sands oil from Canada. This type of oil is difficult, if not impossible, to remove after a spill.

In 2010, when tar sands oil spilled into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, response crews were unable to completely remove the oil from the riverbed, even after five years of expensive cleanup efforts. If tar sands oil spilled in San Francisco Bay, it could harm wildlife in the water nearby and smother bottom-dwelling creatures that are critical to the Bay’s food chain.

The Phillips 66 refinery already has a poor track record of oil spills. In September 2016, oil was spilled there during the unloading of a tanker ship, causing large oil slicks in the northern San Francisco Bay. Over 100 residents near the refinery sought treatment at hospital emergency rooms for exposure to fumes that were later linked to the oil spill.

And then again, in September of this year, a small spill at the Phillips 66 refinery wharf left a 20 foot by 20 foot oil sheen on the Bay’s water. The impacts of small spills like this can accumulate and harm the overall health and resilience of the Bay and its wildlife.

Phillips’ needs a modified permit from the Bay Area Air Quality District to proceed with the expansion, and the district is beginning work on an environmental impact report for the proposal. Following that process, the board of directors will vote on whether to proceed.

In communities near the refinery, public opposition to Phillips’ expansion proposal is building. Baykeeper, a nonprofit advocating for the health …more

(2) Comments

The Coal Battle Shifts to Southeast Asia

As China and India shift away from coal, the fight to end use of this dirty fuel is moving south

Coal is on the way out years ahead of schedule in China and India. A recent report by CoalSwarm (an Earth Island Project), Sierra Club, and Greenpeace showed that, in 2016, that Asia's two fastest growing economies are shutting down mines, scrapping coal plant plans, and building renewables far faster than nearly anyone expected just a few years ago.

coal barge on a riverPhoto by Andrew Taylor/WDMA coal barge on the Mahakam river in Central Kalimantan. President Joko Widodo's plans to increase power supply in Indonesia is focused almost entirely on coal use.

"In China, there's an almost complete stop to permitting of new coal plants," says Lauri Myllyvirta, a China-based coal and air pollution expert for Greenpeace. "In India, there is weekly news about coal projects being canceled [or] already started projects being in distress. Wind and solar cost competitiveness has happened so fast, very few people foresaw it, or adjusted their strategies in time."

However, there is still a while before we can say coal is, truly, on the way out in Asia. That’s because Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines — the three largest countries in Southeast Asia, with a combined population of over 300 million — are still planning to use coal to electrify their nations. Between them, these three countries are planning to build some 210 new coal-fired plants in the coming years. If all these coal plants are built, they could lock in decades of greenhouse gas emissions, create massive air pollution, and result in the expansion of mines across pristine forests and other natural landscapes across the world.

In Indonesia, for example, coalmines shut down due to collapsing global demand, have left waterways across the country’s coal mining regions poisoned, and vast, previously productive, agricultural regions unfarmable. But instead of adapting to the new reality, Indonesia's President Joko Widodo decided to replace this lost foreign demand with local consumption. His electrification plans for Indonesia focus almost entirely on coal, and they are massive —117 new coal-fired power plants throughout the country, more than 35,000MW of power generation capacity in total.

However, these plans have run into a major roadblock. Grassroots resistance. There has been near constant opposition to one of the largest plants, the 2000-megawatt Batang plant in Central Java. Earlier this year, the Indonesian government withdrew the license of the proposed Cirebon coal plant, which has also faced strong opposition. Even existing coal plants aren’t in the …more

(0) Comments

← Recent   Older →

View Posts by Date View Posts by Author


Four issues for just
$15 a year.

cover thumbnail EIJ

Join Now!