Facts

The GREAT DECLINE

“The disappearance of wildlife species is perhaps the most pressing and serious of all environmental problems, threatening the loss of valuable natural services and, as a result, undermining human well-being. The already accelerating rate of species loss is set to become faster still, as existing pressures arising from human population growth, expansion of farming, and economic development become more intense.

Key causes of threats to species, in the highest impact order:

  1. Agriculture 2. Forestry 3. Urbanization 4. Invasive species 5. Over-exploitation (e.g. hunting, fishing etc) 6. Infrastructure

The diversity of wildlife species on Earth is not evenly spread. Some places have a far richer diversity of animals and plants. But many such areas are under threat. These areas are known as biodiversity hot-spots.

WHAT CAN WE DO? Retaining natural habitats in the hot-spots will require the legal protection of at least the best-quality areas, with all rules adopted to protect habitats and wildlife fully enforced. It will also be necessary to find ways for farmers to make a living without encroaching into natural areas.

WHAT CAN I DO? Make regular visits to areas that are protected for nature, both near to home and when you are traveling. The more the protected areas are used, whether they are diversity hot-spots or not, the bigger the incentive for governments and individuals to work keep them intact.”

Tony Juniper, “What’s really happening to our planet?”, 2016 edition, Amazon hyperlink

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World on track to lose two-thirds of wild animals by 2020, major report warns

The number of wild animals living on Earth is set to fall by two-thirds by 2020, according to a new report, part of a mass extinction that is destroying the natural world upon which humanity depends.

The analysis, the most comprehensive to date, indicates that animal populations plummeted by 58% between 1970 and 2012, with losses on track to reach 67% by 2020. Researchers from WWF and the Zoological Society of London compiled the report from scientific data and found that the destruction of wild habitats, hunting and pollution were to blame.

The creatures being lost range from mountains to forests to rivers and the seas and include well-known endangered species such as elephants and gorillas and lesser known creatures such as vultures and salamanders.

The collapse of wildlife is, with climate change, the most striking sign of the Anthropocene, a proposed new geological era in which humans dominate the planet. “We are no longer a small world on a big planet. We are now a big world on a small planet, where we have reached a saturation point,” said Prof Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Center, in a foreword for the report.

Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF, said, “The richness and diversity of life on Earth is fundamental to the complex life systems that underpin it. Life supports life itself and we are part of the same equation. Lose biodiversity and the natural world and the life support systems, as we know them today, will collapse.”

He said humanity was completely dependent on nature for clean air and water, food and materials, as well as inspiration and happiness.

The report analyzed the changing abundance of more than 14,000 monitored populations of the 3,700 vertebrate species for which good data is available. This produced a measure akin to a stock market index that indicates the state of the world’s 64,000 animal species and is used by scientists to measure the progress of conservation efforts.

The biggest cause of tumbling animal numbers is the destruction of wild areas for farming and logging: the majority of the Earth’s land area has now been impacted by humans, with just 15% protected for nature. Poaching and exploitation for food is another major factor, due to unsustainable fishing and hunting: more than 300 mammal species are being eaten into extinction, according to recent research.

Pollution is also a significant problem with, for example, killer whales and dolphins in European seas being seriously harmed by long-lived industrial pollutants. Vultures in south-east Asia have been decimated over the last 20 years, dying after eating the carcasses of cattle dosed with an anti-inflammatory drug. Amphibians have suffered one of the greatest declines of all animals due to a fungal disease thought to be spread around the world by the trade in frogs and newts.

Rivers and lakes are the hardest hit habitats, with animals populations down by 81% since 1970, due to excessive water extraction, pollution and dams. All the pressures are magnified by global warming, which shifts the ranges in which animals are able to live, said WWF’s director of science, Mike Barrett.

Some researchers have reservations about the report’s approach, which summarises many different studies into a headline number. “It is broadly right, but the whole is less than the sum of the parts,” said Professor Stuart Pimm, at Duke University in the US, adding that looking at particular groups, such as birds, is more precise.

The report warns that losses of wildlife will impact on people and could even provoke conflicts: “Increased human pressure threatens the natural resources that humanity depends upon, increasing the risk of water and food insecurity and competition over natural resources.”

However, some species are starting to recover, suggesting swift action could tackle the crisis. Tiger numbers are thought to be increasing and the giant panda has recently been removed from the list of endangered species.

In Europe, protection of the habitat of the Eurasian lynx and controls on hunting have seen its population rise five-fold since the 1960s. A recent global wildlife summit also introduced new protection for pangolins, the world’s most trafficked mammals, and rosewoods, the most trafficked wild product of all.

But stemming the overall losses of animals and habitats requires systemic change in how society consumes resources, said Barrett. People can choose to eat less meat, which is often fed on grain grown on deforested land, and businesses should ensure their supply chains, such as for timber, are sustainable, he said.

“You’d like to think that was a no-brainer in that if a business is consuming the raw materials for its products in a way that is not sustainable, then inevitably it will eventually put itself out of business,” Barrett said. Politicians must also ensure all their policies – not just environmental ones – are sustainable, he added.

“The report is certainly a pretty shocking snapshot of where we are,” said Barrett. “My hope though is that we don’t throw our hands up in despair – there is no time for despair, we have to crack on and act. I do remain convinced we can find our sustainable course through the Anthropocene, but the will has to be there to do it.”

Euractivearticle source hyperlink to full article, published in 2016

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The contribution of predators and scavengers to human well-being

“… potential benefits include disease regulation through host density reduction and competitive exclusion; increasing agricultural output through competition reduction and consumption of problem species that destroy crops; waste disposal services; and regulating populations of species that threaten humans. Although there are a growing number of examples of benefits provided by predators and scavengers, it is often unclear how widespread these benefits may be. While some benefits, such as carcass disposal, may be common and general, others, such as protection from zoonotic disease, may be highly context-dependent effects that are localized in both space and time”

Human societies depend greatly on the living components of the natural world, and these natural services are being altered by human dominance of landscapes and climate change. While predators and scavengers currently face great threats in shared landscapes, they can coexist in areas where local communities accept and tolerate these species. Traditional conservation approaches, such as safeguarding land may not result in comprehensive protection of species in human-dominated areas, leading to a requirement for alternative approaches for saving species in these shared landscapes. An important alternative is using services that predators and scavengers provide for human well-being to enhance protection. By adopting an approach that communicates and educates these benefits to communities that live with predators and scavengers while accounting for cultural values and equitable conservation decision-making, we may be able to stem the decline of these persecuted guilds and make progress towards more expansive protection and increased instances of a net gain in shared landscapes.

Nature, Ecology & Evolutionarticle source hyperlink to full article, published in 2018

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COUNTDOWN

The author takes a journey into 21 countries, among them Israel, Iran, Pakistan, Vietnam, China, the UK, Niger, the Vatican and interviews local community leaders and NGOs experts on one of the most pressing questions: “How many people can fit on Planet Earth, in a sustainable way?” and what is the reality and the concerns in each of these countries and how future may look like for them. Along the way, he talks to ecologists and touches the topic of wildlife as well, and how human, wildlife and environment are inter-connected!

I will quote one paragraph where an Iranian ecologist explains just that to a group of school children in California, in the presence of a tamed wild cheetah, and making an analogy with an Iranian silk rug on which he is sitting in front of his audience, when asked by one of the kids: ” What will happen if Asiatic cheetah would disappear from the Earth? Would it be a disaster? Would we be in trouble? Will there still be gasoline for our parents’ cars? Will be have electricity and water? Should we be concerned?“:

Answer: “This beautiful Persian carpet belongs to an Iranian who lives in San Diego. It’s made with more than one-and-a-half million knots. It took women years to do that. Now, suppose some boy with a pair of scissors cuts few knots from its edge. What will happen? Nothing. You will not even notice it.

Now, suppose that he returns and makes two hundred knots disappear. Probably you still wouldn’t notice it among the one-and-a-half million. But what if he keeps doing that? Soon you will have a small hole. Then it will get bigger and bigger. Eventually, nothing will be left from the carpet.

Then, largely extending his arms in the air, he says: All this is the carpet of life. You are sitting on it. Each of those knots represent one plant or animal. They, and the air we breathe, the water we drink, and our groceries are not manufactured. They are produced by what we call nature.This rug represents the nature. If something happens in Asia or Africa, and the cheetah for example disappears, that is one knot from the carpet. If you understand that, you’ll realize that we are living on a limited number of species and resources, on which our life depends.”

Alan Weisman, “Countdown – our last, best hope for a future on Earth?”, 2013 edition, Amazon hyperlink

countdown

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10 BILLION – the documentary

A comprehensive documentary on what to expect in coming years, as governments fail one by one to acknowledge and tackle the most urgent issue the planet is facing – human population growth, expected to reach 10 billion, far out-stripping the planet’s resources!

Watch the trailer here: 10 BILLION !

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SAPIENS – A Brief History of Humankind

“The Animal that Became a God”

“Seventy thousands years ago, Homo Sapiens was still an insignificant animal minding its own business in a corner of Africa. In the following millennia it transformed itself into the master of the entire planet and the terror of the ecosystem. Today it stands on the verge of becoming a god, poised to acquire not only eternal youth (reference here to the progress to come in science), but also the divine abilities of creation and destruction.

Unfortunately, the Sapiens regime on Earth has so far produced little that we can be proud of. We have mastered our surroundings, increased food production, built cities, established empires and created far-flung trade networks. But did we decrease the amount of suffering in the world? Time and again, massive increases in human power did not necessarily increase the well being of individual Sapiens, and usually caused immense suffering to other animals”.

In the last few decades we have at last made some real progress as far as human condition is concerned, with the reduction of famine, plague and war. Yet the situation of other animals is deteriorating more rapidly than ever before, and the improvement in the lot of humanity is to recent and too fragile to be certain of.

Moreover, despite the astonishing things that humans are capable of doing, we remain unsure of our goals and we seem to be as discontent as ever. We have advanced from canoes to galleys to steamships to space shuttles – but nobody knows where we are going. We are more powerful than ever before, but we have little idea what to do with all that power. Worse still, humans seem to be more irresponsible than ever. Self-made gods with only the laws of physics to keep us company, we are accountable to no one. We are consequently wreaking havoc on our fellow animals and on the surrounding ecosystem, seeking little more than our own comfort and amusement, yet never finding satisfaction.

Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don’t know what they want?”

*******

“Perhaps if people were more aware of First Wave (spread of foragers) and Second Wave (spread of farmers) extinctions, they would be less nonchalant about the Third Wave (Industrial revolution) they are part of. If we knew how many species we have already eradicated, we might be more motivated at protecting those that still survived. This is especially relevant to the large animals of the oceans. Unlike their terrestrial counterparts, the large sea mammals suffered relatively little from the Cognitive and Agricultural Revolutions. But many of them are on the brink of extinction now as a result of industrial pollution and human overuse of oceanic resources. If things continue at the present pace, it is likely the whales, sharks, tuna and dolphins will follow the diprotodons (Australian mega-fauna extinct specie)”, ground sloths and mammoths to oblivion. Among all the world’s large creatures, the only survivors of human flood will be humans themselves, and the farmyard animals that serve as galley slaves in Noah’s Ark.”

Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens – A Brief History of HumankindAmazon hyperlink

sapiens

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HOMO DEUS – A Brief History of Tomorrow

“If you watch the National Geographic channel, go to a Disney film or read a book of fairy tales, you might easily get the impression that planet Earth is populated mainly by lions, wolves and tigers who are an equal match for us humans. Simba the lion king holds sway over the forest animals; Little Red Riding Hood tries to evade the Big Bad Wolf; and little Mowgli bravely confronts Shere Khan the tiger. But in reality, they are no longer there. Our televisions, books, fantasies and nightmares are still full of them, but the Simbas, Shere Khans and Big Bad Wolves of our planet are disappearing. The world is populated mainly by humans and their domesticated animals.

How many wolves live today in Germany, the land of the Grimm Brothers, Little Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf? Less than a hundred (and even these are mostly Polish wolves that stole over the border in recent years). In contrast, Germany is home to 5 million domesticated dogs. Altogether about 200.000 wild wolves still roam the earth, but there are more than 400.000.000 (million) domesticated dogs. The world contains 40.000 lions compared to 600.000.000 (million) domesticated cats; 900.000 African buffalo versus 1.500.000.000 (billion) domesticated cows; 50 million penguins and 20 billion chickens. Since 1970, despite growing ecological awareness, wildlife populations have halved (not that they were prospering in 1970). In 1980 there were 2 Billion wild birds in Europe. In 2009 only 1.6 billion were left. In the same year, Europeans raised 1.9 billion chickens for meat and eggs. At present, more than 90% of the large animals of the world (those weighing more than a few kilograms) are either humans or domesticated animals.”

Homo Deus

Yuval Noah Harari, HOMO DEUS – A Brief History of TomorrowAmazon hyperlink

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Being the change, live well and spark a climate revolution

“The prevailing mindset in our industrial society is to search for a silver bullet solution, some brilliant techno-fix that allows us to avoid personal change (which is assumed to be undesirable). After decades of searching by the world’s brightest minds, however, it seems likely that there is no such silver bullet. Personal change will therefore likely be necessary.

Peter Kalmus, “Being the change, live well and spark a climate revolution“, Amazon hyperlink

being the change

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DEAD ZONE   Where the Wild things were

“As I have heard  Olivier de Schutter argue when he was UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, policy-makers at that time had 3 options: address population growth; tackle runaway consumption, particularly in the West; or look to technology for answers.. Wary of being seen to be telling people what to eat, Western policy-makers preferred not to have a debate over consumption. Nor was there any appetite for a debate over population control, a political taboo. Technology was seen as the lone savior – and it delivered spectacular success, to the point where far more food is produced today than is needed”

“Whole landscapes were swept away by mono-cultures – carpets of uniform crops, sometimes stretching as far as the eye could see. Birds, bees and butterflies, along with the insects and plants they feed on, went into decline. Chemical fertilizers and pesticide sprays replaced time-honored natural ways of keeping soil fertile and problem bugs of all sorts at bay. Laying hens ended up in battery cages, pigs in narrow crates or barren, crowded pens, while chickens were selectively bred and reared to grow so fast that their legs could barely support their outsize bodies”

Philip Lymbery, “DEAD ZONE   Where the Wild things were”, Amazon hyperlink

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Our Consumption Model Is Broken. Here’s How To Build A New One.

“On August 2, 2017, we started using more from nature than our planet can renew in the whole year. Every natural resource we used from that day onward resulted in “ecological overspending.” Think of it as your bank account. For the first 7 months of the year, you lived on your regular salary. After that, you started using your savings and increasing your credit card debt. Currently, humanity lives at credit and consumes resources equal to that of 1.7 planets a year. That’s compared to 1.4 a decade ago and 0.8 in 1963. If population and consumption trends continue, this figure will rise to 2 planets by 2030. This puts us — and our children — on an unsustainable path.”

shift.newco.coArticle source hyperlink to full article, published in 2017

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PROJECT ANIMAL FARM 

“Your food will never again look the same!”

“”Most free-range farms are bull-shit” Brick told me. “Most free-range farmers give their chickens and turkeys just a small patch of dirt. It’s so small that the buggers don’t even bother to use it! You won’t see a single bugger outside! It’s all a scum.”But Brick’s official promotional line on free-range was contrary to his personal viewpoint. “We work with Mother Nature, not against her,” he would say, straight-faced, when asked about free-range in a professional context.”

“…there is the feed conversion ratio to contemplate. For every one pound of weight that a sheep, goat, or cow gains, she has eaten several pounds of corn or hay. The land used to grow the corn and hay would be put to exponentially better use – economically, environmentally, and ethically – if it were growing vegetables for people to eat directly. The problem of world hunger can largely be solved by agreeing to eat lower on the food chain, a concept publicized in the seventies in Frances Moore Lappe’s Diet for a small Planet

“I noticed that the number of wild birds flitting through dairy farms is inversely proportional to the number of cows on the farm. The reason is that there is nothing for birds to do on lands built solely on corn and concrete – there are no weeds or worms for them to seek or peck. On large diaries today, gone are the symphonies of sparrows, the songs of swallows, the guffaws of ravens, the whistles of mockingbirds, and the lifting chirps of bobolinks, eastern meadowlarks, upland sandpipers, and all manner of other birds. The sudden silencing of the song of birds, this obliteration of the color and beauty and interest they lend to our world have come swiftly, insidiously, and unnoticed.”

“The annual American report State of the Birds finds that more than 97 percent of native grassland of the U.S. (including prairie and pastureland) have been lost, mostly because of conversion to agriculture. As a result, grassland bird populations have declined from historic levels far more than any other group of birds. Factory farms endanger not just farm animal welfare and human health but also the survival of wildlife.

Sonia Faruqi, “Project Animal Farm”Amazon hyperlink

Project Animal Farm lynk Amazon online store

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The inner life of ANIMALS

Surprising Observations of a Hidden World

“When people reject acknowledging too much in the way of emotions of animals, I have a vague feeling that there’s a bit of fear that human beings could lose their special status. Even worse, it would become much more difficult to exploit animals. Every meal eaten or lather jacket worn would trigger moral considerations that would spoil our enjoyment. When you think how sensitive pigs are, how they teach their young and help them deliver their own children in life, how to answer to their names and how they pass the mirror test, the thought of annual slaughter of 250 Million of these animals across European Union alone is chilling.

And it doesn’t stop with animals. As science has discovered and you might already have read, we must acknowledge that trees and other plants have feelings and even a capacity to remember. How, then, are we supposed to feed ourselves in a morally acceptable manner if we are now justified to feel sorry for plants, too? Like many species, we cannot photosynthesize to create our own food, so we have to eat living entities to survive. The choices we make are very personal. They might depend on where we live or the culture in which we were brought up. Ultimately, though, each of us has to decide what we will eat. My hope is that what you have learned in this book will help you make informed decisions for the future.

From my personal perspective, I am suggesting that we infuse our dealings with the living beings with which we share our world with a little more respect, as we once used to do, whether those beings are animals or plants. That doesn’t mean completely doing without them, but it does mean a certain reduction in our level of comfort and in the amount of biological goods we consume. As a reward, if we then have happier horses, goats, chickens and pigs; if we can then observe contented deer, martens or ravens; if one day we can listen in when the ravens call their names, then a hormone will be released into our central nervous systems that will spread a feeling against which we have no defense – happiness!”

Peter Wohlleben, “The Inner Life of Animals“, Amazon hyperlink

The Inner Life of Animals Amazon hyperlink

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After Nature

A politics for the Anthropocene

“A democracy open to post-human encounters with the living world would be more likely to find ways to restrain its demands and stop short of exhausting the planet. The history of environmental law suggests that people are best able to change their ways when they find two things at once in nature: something to fear, a threat they must avoid, and also something to love, a quality they can admire and respect, and which they can do their best to honor ”

“It is a common – and fair – complaint that the U.S. government is distorted through and through by the political power of wealth. In environmental matters, the problem is even worse. Wealth is produced and sustained by an economy that effectively subsidizes fossil fuels (by treating greenhouse gas emissions as costless) and industrial agriculture (through explicit subsidies to big producers and regulatory tolerance as massive feedlots and slaughterhouses), along with every individual decision to buy from those industries. It’s as if Constitution gave three votes to everyone who wants to keep things as they are, and only one vote to those who seek to change them.”

“So long as the economy treats greenhouse-gas emissions and soil exhaustion as free and legal systems permits the mass feeding operations and slaughterhouses of industrial agriculture, a good deal of changed consciousness will mean no more than shuffling furniture between the first-class and second-class cabins of the Titanic

“Integrating human work into ecological vision has a broader potential, which is to re-figure the relationship between the natural world and the human economy. Ecology is the only possible home of an economy; an ecology and an economy must share some of the same shape, and must rise or fall together. Recognizing this, neo-liberal environmentalists today portray the world as “natural capital”, a productive form of wealth that rewards prudent investment. The metaphor of capital makes the natural world visible in economic thinking, where it has often been invisible – think of generations of ignored greenhouse gases and lost topsoil in service of narrowly defined profit – and in this way the metaphor is useful.”

 

Jedediah Purdy, “After Nature“, Amazon hyperlink

After nature

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Indirect effects of bear hunting: a review from Scandinavia

“In Sweden, data from 1984 to 2006 suggest that hunters exhibit low selectivity for age, size, and sex, except for a slight bias toward males in the north”

“There is growing evidence that the harvest of large carnivores can cause changes to their social structure, the space use of survivors, and population growth rate. For bears, the removal of con-specifics through hunting creates vacancies on the landscape and induces surviving animals to shift their home ranges toward these vacancies. Home range shifts are strongest when the surviving animal is the same sex as the killed animal, which can increase sexually selected infanticide (SSI) by males and reflect a release from female–female competition. Although little is known about how this spatial reorganization affects individual fitness, links have been made between hunting, male home-range shifts, SSI, and variation in population growth ”

“In North America, hunters may show preference toward larger and older bears, mostly males. The disproportionate removal of older and male bears could disrupt population age and sex structure, but it could also artificially select for smaller and less reproductively successful phenotypes. ”

BioOnearticle source hyperlink to full article, published in 2018

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