2013: The Year of the Big Backslide?

The year of our lord, 2013, could be known as the year of the big backslide, at least in terms of attitudes toward animals and the environment, as well as the general acceptance of scientific fact.

For example, CBS News reports that the number of Republicans who believe in evolution today has plummeted compared to what it was in 2009, according to new analysis from the Pew Research Center. A poll out Monday shows that less than half – 43 percent – of those who identify with the Republican Party say they believe humans have evolved over time, plunging from 54 percent four years ago. Forty-eight percent say they believe “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time,” up from 39 percent in 2009.

I can’t help but think this is because many people still aren’t comfortable admitting they’re animals. And this supremacist attitude is reflected in everything they do in regard to our fellow species.

Anyone who has been following the wolf issue since gray wolves were removed from the Endangered Species List in a handful of backward states has certainly noticed a rapid backslide pertaining to how wolves are perceived, treated and “managed” by those bent on dragging us back to the dark ages for animals—the Nineteenth Century—when concepts like bounties, culls and contest hunts were commonplace. Hunters and ranchers in the tri-state area surrounding Yellowstone National Park, as well as in the Great Lakes region, are doing everything they can to resurrect the gory glory days of the 1800s, and wolves are paying the ultimate price.

Meanwhile, in spite of great efforts to educate people about the myriad of problems associated with factory farming and the dependence on meat consumption in an ever more crowded human world, the number of ruminants raised for food on the planet today is at an all-time high of 3.6 billion, double what is was 50 years ago. Regardless of or our burgeoning human population, not only do we have a chicken in every pot in this country, we now have cow and sheep parts in every freezer and pig parts in practically every poke. This, of course, is all thanks to ever-worsening living conditions for farmed animals.

Professor William Ripple and co-authors of a research paper, “Ruminants, Climate Change, and Climate Policy,” prepared in Scotland, Austria, Australia and the United States, noted that about 25 percent of the earth’s land area is dedicated to grazing, and a third of all arable land is used to grow food for livestock, according to the report. Reducing the number of cattle and sheep on the planet, and thereby reducing the methane gas emissions they produce, is a faster way to impact climate change than reducing carbon dioxide alone, the report concluded. The researchers concluded that greenhouse gas emissions from cattle and sheep are 19 to 48 times higher per pounds of food produced than the gas emitted in the production of plant protein foods such as beans, grains or soy.

To get an idea of how unnatural and unsustainable 3.6 billion large ruminants is, think back to when vast bison herds blackened the plains. At that time there were only 50 million bison in all of North America. There are over 300 million human beef-eaters in the United States, every one of them expecting to see a fully stocked steak house, Subway or McDonald’s on every street corner.

Meanwhile, the media’s busily cooking up a spin to answer to meat’s culpability in this planet’s climate crisis. Articles on how methane from grass-eaters is a primary greenhouse gas are often accompanied by the suggestion that pigs and chickens don’t produce as much. In other words, don’t worry your little meat-addicted heads if this beef-cow-causing-global-warming thing becomes a recognized issue, you can just switch over to other non-ruminants’ carcasses—no one really expects you to become a vegetarian, after all.

One of the most outrageous spins ever concocted aired on a “Ted Talk” just last March. Allan Savory, a former Rhodesian provincial Game Officer, has been spreading the counterintuitive notion that to control desertification and stop global warming we need to turn even more cattle out onto arid land. This notion comes from a man who, as late as 1969 advocated for the culling of large populations of elephants and hippos because he felt they were destroying their habitat. Savory participated in the culling of 40,000 elephants in the 1950s, but he later concluded it did not reverse the degradation of the land and called the culling project “the saddest and greatest blunder of my life.” Now he’s trying to sell us on another blunder with even more destructive consequences. What will this guy do for an encore? Never mind, I don’t want to know.

Speaking of Africa, 2013 saw the fastest growing and second most populous continent on its way to adding another billion people to the planet. By the end of this century, 3/4 of the world’s growth is expected to come from Africa, and projections put its population at four billion—one billion in Nigeria alone. Most African countries will at least triple in population, as there are very high fertility rates and very little family planning in most regions. No one is quite sure how the continent will provide for that many hungry humans; only time will tell.

And even though China’s overwhelming population is already well past a billion, in 2013 they abandoned their one child policy and affectively doubled it by implementing a two child policy at the stroke of a pen.

Sorry, but this shit is scary, at least if you care about the plight of non-human species on this planet. Sure, cultural diversity is important—to people. But it sure as hell doesn’t trump biological diversity in the scheme of things. Regardless of what you may or may not believe about whether we were created in the image of a god, life on Earth as we know it will not go on if we humans are one of the only species left around.

The coming decades are going to test just what Homo sapiens are made of. Are we progressive and adaptable enough to learn to share the planet with others and become plant eaters, as some people have? Or is our incessant breeding and meat consumption going to put us into an all new classification—planet eater?

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Tell the U.S. Senate that You Oppose Ranching Industry Bill: Western Wildlands are Not a Feedlot

From Wildearth Guardians

It’s another giveaway by the Congressional cowboy caucus to welfare ranchers.

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is considering a bill that would exempt the ranching industry from numerous environmental laws and further elevate the cattle industry on western public lands above wildlife and water.

Tell Committee Chair Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon that ranching industry shouldn’t be given special treatment. And if your Senator is on the committee, tell her/him as well that you oppose giveaways to the livestock industry.

The so-called “Grazing Improvement Act” eliminates environmental review for grazing permits under the National Environmental Policy Act. The Act would also double the period of grazing permits from ten to twenty years! Both would further entrench grazing on public lands—imperiling hundreds of species including sage grouse, native trout and wolves.

At a time when our public wild lands in the west are critical for providing water and wildlife habitat and ensuring resilience to climate change we cannot afford more give-aways to the cattle industry.

Energy and Natural Resources Committee members need to hear from you.

Call Senator Wyden at (202) 224-5244 in Washington, DC, or (503) 326-7525 in Portland Oregon, and then sign on to our email letter today!

http://www.wildearthguardians.org/site/PageServer#.Uogsa77Tly0

Wildlife Refuges, Not Hunters’ Playgrounds

nohuntsign

October 16th, 2013 by Anja Heister

Once again, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) wants to turn even more wildlife refuges into playgrounds for hunters and other “consumptive users” of wild animals.

The U.S. National Wildlife Refuge System includes 550 national wildlife refuges, thousands of waterfowl protection areas and four marine national monuments, totaling more than 150 million acres. Despite being called “refuges”, more than half of all national wildlife refuges are already open to hunters, trappers and anglers.

Consumptive users also have millions of acres of public and private lands outside the refuge system available to them to pursue their frivolous and violent activities of “recreational” trophy hunting and fishing, and trapping for fur. They should not be allowed in refuges, which often are the last remaining places for animal species already struggling for survival.

Furthermore, as the USFWS’s own 2011 survey has shown, wildlife watchers have already well outpaced and outspent wildlife killing interests. Wildlife watchers are a growing economic force, and their overwhelming preference to see living animals needs to be considered and respected.

Wildlife refuges, as the name indicates, should be true sanctuaries for wild animals where they are sheltered from the killing spree that surrounds them.

What You Can Do:

Please copy and paste the comment below to the USFWS and tell them that hunting, trapping and fishing should not be allowed in national wildlife refuges at all.

Please follow these steps to send your comment to the USFWS:

http://www.idausa.org/wildlife-refuges-hunters-playgrounds/

Stop Lion Trophy Hunting

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The lion population in Africa is being reduced at an alarming rate – 50 years ago there were 450,000 lions. Today as little as 20,000 remain. Lion Trophy Hunting, especially Canned Lion Hunting (where lions are shot in cages) are largely responsible for the dwindling lion population.

For the right price you can shoot a beautiful male lion, a lioness with cubs or even a lion cub – and this is done while they are in a cage and defenseless.

Canned Lion Hunting is not illegal in South Africa. The SA government also refuses to stop the issue of Lion Hunting permits or to at least limit the number of permits issued.

Sign the petition: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Stop_Lion_Trophy_Hunting/?dOrYHdb

Sea otter return boosts ailing seagrass in California

[Proof that nature can take care of her own, if only we'd step aside and let her...]

Sea otter return boosts ailing seagrass in California

By Suzi Gage BBC News

sea otter ecology A sea otter enjoys a crab in California, and helps seagrass in the process.

The return of sea otters to an estuary on the central Californian coast has significantly improved the health of seagrass, new research has found.

Seagrass was deemed to be heading for extinction in this region before the otters returned.

But scientists found that the animals triggered a chain reaction of events that boosted the water-dwelling plants.

The research is published in the journal, PNAS.

The urbanisation of California has led to a huge increase in nutrient pollution in coastal waters, from increasing use of nitrogen-rich fertilizers.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

It’s almost like these sea otters are fighting the effects of poor water quality”

End Quote Brent Hughes University of California

This is said to be the reason for the dieback of seagrass, which has also been declining worldwide.

This research suggests that the hunting to near-extinction of sea otters in the late 19th and early 20th Century may have exacerbated the problem, and conversely that their reintroduction is helping revive ailing seagrass populations, even in the face of hugely nutrient-rich water.

Links in the chain

The researchers assessed seagrass levels over the past 50 years in the Elkhorn Slough in Monterey Bay, and mapped their increases and declines.

They looked at a variety of changes that may have affected the grass, but the only factor that really matched the changes in seagrass was sea otter numbers.

They theorised that sea otters were eating the crabs which prey upon small invertebrates in the water.

These invertebrates eat a type of algae which blooms when there are more nutrients in the soil. It grows on the leaves of the seagrass, shading them from sunlight and causing them to die back.

This is quite a complex cascade of effects, so the researchers tested out their theory by comparing similar estuaries with and without sea otters, and by doing experiments in the lab, and in the field.

These experiments, which included putting cages that sea otters either could or couldn’t access, down on the seagrass, confirmed their hypothesis.

otters Sea otters have been responsible for improving the health of the seagrass in these estuaries.

Brent Hughes, lead author of the study, said: “This estuary is part of one of the most polluted systems in the entire world, but you can still get this healthy thriving habitat, and it’s all because of the sea otters.

“So it’s almost like these sea otters are fighting the effects of poor water quality.”

Hughes described seagrass as “the canary in the coalmine” in terms of predicting levels of nutrient pollution in the water.

Foundation species

It also acts as a nursery habitat for many species of fish and it uses CO2 from sea water and the atmosphere, thus potentially helping with climate change.

Not only that, but it acts as protection to the stability of the shoreline.

Hughes said: “It’s what we call a foundation species, like kelp forest, salt marsh or coral reef. The major problem from a global perspective is that seagrass is declining worldwide. And one of the major drivers of this decline has been nutrient inputs from anthropogenic sources, via agriculture or urban runoff.”

These findings are of particular interest at the moment, as a ban on sea otters moving along the coast to southern California was lifted last year. The ban was in place as there was a fear the sea otters would impinge on fisheries in the area.

Hughes told BBC news: “That’s important because there’s a lot of these kind of degraded estuaries in southern California because of all the urban runoff from places like Los Angeles and San Diego.

“Coastal managers will now have a better sense of what’s going to happen when sea otters move in to their systems.

“There’s a huge potential benefit to sea otters returning to these estuaries, and in to these seagrass beds that might be threatened.”

Where Will We Be in Y3K?

With several important issues on deck to blog about, the spring winds blew a tree over our power lines and we spent the afternoon back in the relative Stone Age, huddled next to an outside window, straining to read printed pages by what natural light the stormy day had to offer. I decided to do some spring cleaning and throw out anything I hadn’t read or in some other way utilized in the last decade or so. Just as the power came back on I came upon the following letter I wrote after reading Richard Leakey’s book, The Sixth Extinction. This letter, which is as relevant today as when I wrote it (except that there are now 7 billion people instead of 6), was published on January 10, 2000 in the Seattle Post Intelligencer:

Ina fit of arrogant optimism bolstered by surviving the Y2K non-crisis, many are asking, “Where will we be in Y3K?” Perhaps a more pressing question is,” Which species would be able to survive another 1,000 years of mankind’s reign of terror?”

Forget computer malfunctions, power outages or other inconveniences. The new millennium finds us in the midst of a mass extinction unrivaled since a giant asteroid struck Earth 65 million years ago. Unfortunately, Bruce Willis can’t bail us out of the impending Armageddon by simply blasting a menacing death-rock to smithereens.

Our species, one in 1,413,000, is out to prove that it doesn’t take an asteroid strike to unravel life’s intricate diversity. In doing so, humans are on a collision course with destiny. We are eradicating 30,000 species per year—120,000 times the natural extinction rate of one every four years.

A recent annual survey by the Chinese government found so few of their nationally celebrated, freshwater white dolphins remaining in the Yangtze River that on Dec. 29 they were written off as living relics of an extinct species. China and India now boast more than 1 billion each of a human population that is 6 billion strong and growing. Comparing those figures with the billion inhabitants on the entire planet in 1600, any game manager would clearly see a species out of balance.

As Richard Leakey, the renowned paleoanthropologist warns, “Dominant as no other species has been in the history of life on Earth, Homo sapiens is in the throes of causing a major biological crisis, a mass extinction…And we may also be among the living dead.”

Where will we be in another millennium? Will a future Bruce Willis save us from ourselves? Or will we have gone the way of the dinosaur and the Yangtze white dolphin?

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Be the Wind

Upon awakening from a fitful sleep after a cold, windy night, it occurred to me that birds must have to keep an unconscious death-grip on the branch they’re perched on to hold their place until morning. It must be second nature to them; part of what makes them who they are.
Next the thought came to me that a bird’s nighttime death-grip on a perch is analogous to the death-grip “sportsmen’s” groups, “game” departments and the livestock industry have on our wildlife. Like a trembling bird, fearful for its future, animal exploiters must be afraid that if they loosen their grip, they’ll be blown away.

Well, they’re right.

It’s high time we be the wind that finally breaks loose their death-grip on wildlife once and for all, and for the good of all.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

Wolf-Murder by Numbers

Here are the totals of wolves murdered in the tri-state area, not including those who were victims of our taxpayer-funded assassins—the hit men from the federal “Wildlife Services” agency. (Note: all three of these states share a border with Yellowstone National Park)…

Latest Posted Idaho Wolf Hunt Kill total (current season): 169
Latest Posted Idaho Wolf Trapping Kill total (current season): 76
Final Posted Montana Wolf Hunt Kill Total (most recent season) 128
Final Posted Montana Wolf Trapping Kill total (most recent season): 97
Wyoming Wolf Kill Total (current season): 74 (Note: as of March 1st Wyoming’s season has been extended indefinitely)
Regional Total Reported Killed This Season: 544
Regional Total Reported Killed Since Delisting: 1,089

Meanwhile, a new National Park Service report for 2011 shows that the 3,394,326 visitors to Yellowstone spent $332,975,000 in communities surrounding the park. This spending supported 5,041 jobs in the local area.

(Michigan State University conducted this visitors’ spending analysis for the NPS. The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state. It can be downloaded at http://www.nature.nps.gov/socialscience/products.cfm#MGM click on Economic Benefits to Local Communities from National Park Visitation 2011.)

Needless to say, most people who visit national parks want to see the wildlife unmolested. They are not there to hunt; the money they spend reflects their strong interest in the quiet enjoyment of nature. Pro-hunting factions like to boast about the money their bloodsport brings to local communities. I don’t know if anyone has taken a survey on how much those kill-happy cowboys add to the communities around Yellowstone, but you can bet your boots it’s nowhere near $332,975,000.
One thing I know for sure is that the number of dollars spent by Yellowstone visitors is going to drop as the wildlife they went there to see continues to disappear.

Yellowstone wolf photo ©Jim Robertson. All Rights Reserved

Yellowstone wolf photo ©Jim Robertson. All Rights Reserved

Hope for a Humane and Environmentally Sane Future

The following is my review of a new book published by Earth Books

Often, over the years, I’ve thought about taking on the task of chronicling the ways in which humankind is destroying the Earth, and how we need to change to survive as a species. Now, equally sensing the dire need for such a book, long-time animal activist, Will Anderson, has risen to the challenge with his new book, This is Hope: Green Vegans and the New Human Ecology.

I have to admit, the title, This is Hope, sounded to me like it could be almost, well, overly-hopeful. But in fact the book takes a hard, realistic look at where we’re headed if we don’t make some major changes in our destructive ways, our eating habits and our view of non-human animals as commodities. For instance, Anderson doesn’t buy into the increasingly popular fallacy that hunting can somehow be sustainable in this rapidly growing human world. Not only does he take on hunting, and those groups who promote it, he employs the term “neo-predation” for the myriad of ways in which the modern world disrupts biodiversity—to the peril of all who share the Earth.

And the author does not fall prey to the politically correct notion that human overpopulation is an overstated myth. Instead we learn that as environmentally-conscious, green vegans who truly want to see a future for all life on the planet, addressing and reversing our overpopulation is a must.

If we are willing to embrace Will Anderson’s prescription for a “new human ecology,” there truly could be hope for the future. As Anderson puts it, “The new human ecology can be the transformation of human behavior all of Earth has waited for.” Some of the positive results he foresees from this transformation include:

• Vast landscapes subjected to grazing and growing food for livestock are released from animal agriculture.
• Some of that land will be banked and rotated with other croplands. Soil erosion and pollution are sharply reduced. Sustainably grown, organic food becomes more reliably available.
• Conceivably, fewer people on Earth and the efficiency of botanical agriculture will allow lower food prices and raise food availability.
• We will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions immediately by 18% to 51%.
• Other human pressures on ecosystems decrease and allow them to trend toward recovery.
• Vegan diets will create better human health. This should result in lower health care costs.
• We stop the intentional impregnation of billions of domesticated individuals from other species, the torment of their enslavement and denial of their innate needs, and their early, violent deaths.
• The science and implementation of wildlife and habitat management is transformed…control by the small minority of people who hunt, fish and trap is ended.
• Livestock fences will be removed. Wild herds of indigenous wildlife can reoccupy habitat and have room to migrate long distances. Ecosystem keystone species like black-tailed prairie dogs will not be cruelly persecuted on behalf of animal agriculture.
• There are no new ghost nets, those fishing nets that break away from vessels, drift with oceanic currents, and continue to trap fish, turtles, marine birds, and marine mammals.
• We stop bottom trawling that destroys sea bed marine ecosystems. Since vegan human ecology does not require fish, it ends the trashing of millions of tons of unwanted bycatch (non-targeted species), eliminates shark-finning that is decimating shark populations, stops the killing of octopi, and ends the drowning of dolphins and turtles.
• We finally create a moral code of behavior that is based upon biocentric innate value; it is more consistently applied to all individuals of all species and ecosystems.

Photograph ©Jim Robertson

Photograph ©Jim Robertson