World Wildlife Day – Building an Ark for the Future of Our Wild Heritage

The future of wildlife is in our hands

The UN named March 3 as World Wildlife Day at its 68th General Assembly on December 20, 2013. The designation aimed to coincide with adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) on March 3, 1973.

CITES is an international agreement regulating the commercial trade in wild plant and animal species to safeguard wildlife from extinction from international trade.

World Wildlife Day is aspires to celebrate our wild heritage and raise awareness of the plight so many species face in a time of global mass extinction .

World Wildlife Day - The Future of Wildlife is in Our Hands

Pollinators and food production

The first global assessment of pollinators released last week at the Fourth Plenary session of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) reports a startling decline in pollinators, from birds and bees to moths and butterflies.

The report warns that the consequences on global food production from the combined impact on pollinators, from climate change, disease and chemical pesticides, could cost the industry upwards of $577 billion annually.

“If we get further declines in wild and managed pollinators, it would be a serious risk to foods that rely on those pollinators, especially food of high nutritional quality such as seeds and fruits,” says  Robert Watson, an environmental scientist at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change. 

Charismatic chaos

The main driver of this “dismantling of the biological framework of life” is the consequence of the rise of one single species – homo sapiens. 

From the charismatic lions, tigers, elephants and rhinos to lesser known species, such as the pangolin or cotton-top tamarin, the fate of thousands of species is increasingly tenuous.

It is estimated that 100,000 elephants were slaughtered between 2010 and 2012 for their ivory. More than 1200 rhinos were poached in 2014 in South Africa alone. Illegal poaching and wildlife trafficking is a multi-billion industry. Dozens of species of rhinos roamed the African plains just a century ago. Today only five species remain.

Poaching is not the only human driver of extinction. Climate change, ecosystem degradation and habitat loss combine to push species to the edge of extinction.

One single species now commands between 25 to 40 percent of net primary productivity on earth.  The combination of growing consumption of earth’s finite resources combined with the wanton destruction of animals has brought a 52 percent reduction of the planet’s biodiversity in just the past forty years.

Building an ark? Life in the brink

The ancient myth of Noah’s ark points to human alienation, from nature, from God’s creation and from ourselves.

If the Ark represents salvation from that alienation, we are in desperate need of one now.  Humanity can only push biodiversity so far before the cascading effects of our actions take their toll on all species, including us. In fact, the human toll has already begun.

It is time to reassess our relationship with nature and turn the tide, understanding that the well-being of the planet and all its inhabitants are essential to our own survival.

Our fate, and that of all life on earth, is in our hands.

“On this World Wildlife Day, I call on all citizens, businesses and governments to play their part in protecting the world’s wild animals and plants. The actions taken by each of us will determine the fate of the world’s wildlife.  The future of wildlife is in our hands!”

-Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Featured image credit: Tom Schueneman, all rights reserved

Fighting for Sacred Food, and Spaces, in the Oregon Rainforest

By James Smith

Circle of Children, an Oregon-based non-profit, is moving to create a space for like-minded community members far and wide to gather, knowledge-share, work, and learn. Once up and running, their visionary Triangle Lake Center will host non-profit organizations,sustainable-living programs, visiting scholars, and local students and schools.

Circle of Children: growing healthy food and happy children

Circle of Children is aiming to create a safe sacred space that will safely allow kids to get back out to work, play, and learn in natural environments, even as those natural spaces are rapidly declining.

Founder of Circle of Children

he Founder and Director of Circle of Children, William Weishampel (also known as Blackhorse Shasta) is working with his all-volunteer staff to get the donated $1.2 million, 60 acre conference center, volunteer guest houses, restrooms, kitchen, and gardens, repaired, renovated, and operational. Unfortunately, for the last few years Circle of Children has been facing challenging legal hurdles and political opposition to their operations from those who don’t want to see a cooperatively-run natural learning space take hold in the heavily-logged region.

Providing a safe space to learn and grow: Circle of Children
Circle of Children Tribal Essence 2013

Circle of Children’s story is not a new one. Many activists and whole-foods proponents have faced similar setbacks and challenges. It is what we all face, as the individuals and communities who are trying to protect and preserve good wholesome food, heirloom varieties of seeds and eats, endangered species, and beautiful natural spaces. It is a fight that will never end until we lose our protected spaces, or run out energy and resources– but thankfully for every negative force there is an even greater and more powerful force on the side of good, who know how to mobilize the masses and call attention to worthy causes.

Circle of Children Garden

Some of the things on circle of Children’s wish list, or rather “dream” list as far as their long term-goals go, are solar panels for the barn and a wood chipper so they can more effectively clean and maintain the property – producing their own mulch as well. They understand the importance of mulching, composting and utilizing natural manures to mimic the rich spongy soil of the forest floor around them.

Conventional gardening techniques, like tilling and subtractive farming, do nothing for the long-term health of the plants, soil, or planet. In contrast, applied regenerative techniques and permaculture concepts, like food forests and low water gardening – are making a resurgence in a big way – because they just make more sense! We can’t afford anything less than to start repairing the planet instead of only maintaining the status-quo. If we can grow healthy organic foods for ourselves and our communities in the process, and also teach children the value of hard work and effort – what’s not to like?

Circle of Children knows they are facing an uphill battle but one that they will keep fighting. Their courage in the face of consistent smear campaigns and operational permit issues they are facing is inspirational. They have the support of hundreds of local residents and students and a list of community organizations that are excited to use the conference center – planned to be offered as a community resource – to hold their events, retreats, and other work projects.

One upcoming event, in coordination with GEM Network, is a “Permaculture Olympics.” where participants will compete in a wide range of events designed to challenge their permaculture, farming, and field talents. Participants will get a chance to show off their finely-honed skills in a variety of permaculture-themed events. Contact Circle of Children for more information on how you can help or get involved.

With continued financial support, in-kind donations, and gifted volunteer hours from people all around the globe, Circle of Children will see their dreams and goals materialize. Though weary, they will overcome these obstacles and legal battles to come out stronger and more vibrant than ever before. Stay strong, my weary friends, stay strong!

Climate Change, El Niño Prolong Coral Die-off

The news earlier this month of a record low Arctic sea ice in January, combined with the hottest January on record and four separate studies corroborating accelerating sea level rise is only some of the recent news pointing to a rapidly changing global climate.

In a press statement released today by the American Geophysical Union, scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report that rising ocean temperatures from global warming and the strong El Niño will likely extend the ongoing coral bleaching event, already the longest on record, well into 2017.

Scientists released their findings this week at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in New Orleans. Researchers will give an oral presentation of their work this Friday. You can see presentations abstracts on the AGU website.

Following is the full AGU press release:

Coral die-off

– Global warming and the intense El Niño now underway are prolonging the longest global coral die-off on record, according to NOAA scientists monitoring and forecasting the loss of corals from disease and heat stress due to record ocean temperatures. The global coral bleaching event that started in 2014 could extend well into 2017, researchers report at the Oceans Sciences Meeting here this week.

Coral bleaching happens when corals are stressed by conditions such as high temperatures. The bleaching, or whitening, occurs when the corals expel the symbiotic algae that live in their tissues. Without the algae, corals lose a significant source of food and are more vulnerable to disease. In a severe bleaching event, large swaths of reef-building corals die. This causes reefs to erode, destroying fish habitat and exposing previously protected shorelines to the destructive force of ocean waves.

Warmer ocean temperatures caused by El Niños and global warming can lead to coral bleaching.  The first mass bleaching occurred during the 1982-83 El Niño. A global bleaching event was then confirmed in 1998 during a strong El Niño that was followed by a very strong La Niña, which brings warmer waters to places like Palau and Micronesia. A second global bleaching event occurred in 2010, during a less powerful El Niño.

 Scientists first observed the current global coral bleaching event beginning in mid-2014 when bleaching began in the western Pacific Ocean. In October 2015, as the current El Niño was still strengthening, NOAA scientists declared the third global bleaching event on record was underway.

New research finds that this bleaching event has persisted for 20 months and could reach into 2017, said Mark Eakin, a biological oceanographer at NOAA in College Park, Maryland, and coordinator of NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch.

 “This time we’re in the longest coral bleaching event,” Eakin said. “We’re maybe looking at a 2- to 2-1/2-year-long event. Some areas have already seen bleaching two years in a row.”

Eakin and his colleagues will be presenting the latest update and outlook for the global bleaching event Friday at the 2016 Ocean Sciences Meeting co-sponsored by the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, The Oceanography Society and the American Geophysical Union.

The length of the event means corals in some parts of the world have no time to recover before they are hit by another bleaching event, Eakin said. The current global bleaching event is hammering some reefs repeatedly. Reefs bleached in 2015 in the Caribbean and Florida Keys, for instance, have just started to recover, but may start bleaching all over again as early as July, according to Eakin. In the Pacific, reports are just coming in that corals in Fiji’s nearshore waters are bleaching with lots of dead coral.

“This is now two years in a row for Fiji and it’s looking like 2016 may be worse than 2015,” Eakin said.

 The rate of return of bleaching events has been faster than some reefs can recover, he noted. In 1998 in Southeast Asia, for example, there was a severe bleaching event, followed by twelve years of recovery that allowed some of the more rapid-growing, branching corals to grow back. However, the slower-growing corals that build the backbone of reefs did not recover. In 2010, the same area was hit again by a global bleaching event, killing off newly-grown branching corals and many of the surviving massive corals. These reefs may see bleaching again later this year, Eakin said.

 “That was only six years ago,” he said. “We’re seeing global bleaching again now. The frequency of mass bleaching events are going up because of global warming. We are hitting the corals, then we are hitting them again, and then again.”

Featured image credit: Eco Cafe’ Phuket, courtesy flickr