Here’s Who’s Getting Paid to Destroy the Endangered Species Act (ESA)

GR: The 1973 U. S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) should have been a first step on the path to effective nature conservation. If the corporatists hadn’t been in charge of our country, the Act would have formed the core of a true nature conservation program. Instead, the Act has always been too subject to political influence to be very effective. It only protects a small percentage of truly endangered species.

The leaders in the impending attack on the ESA aren’t the only members of congress receiving money from the extractive industries; they’re just the ones that were chosen to lead the attack. However, they top the list of nature’s enemies. And by extension, they are the enemies of us all. Here’s a link for ideas on removing them from positions of power. 

Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY.), Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industries.

“A small yet vocal group of congressmen are gearing up this summer to dismantle the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Campaign finance records of these lawmakers reveal that they have all taken significant money from extractive industries frustrated by the law’s protection of critical habitat for endangered species.

“The ESA has proven to be a powerful, effective conservation safeguard. More than 99 percent of species that have been designated for federal protection continue to exist in the wild today, including the bald eagle, grizzly bear, the leatherback sea turtle and the Florida manatee.

“But the work of the ESA has only grown more urgent as many scientists agree that the planet is either on the cusp of or already experiencing a sixth mass wave of extinction. A study last week by Stanford scientists found that a significant number of plant and wildlife populations are growing dangerously thin.

Earthjustice is working with coalition partners to oppose efforts on Capitol Hill to weaken protections for endangered species. The public can also make a difference in this fight—despite the big money from fossil fuel industries funding opponents of the ESA—by contacting their Congressional offices (use this call-in tool to reach your Senator).

The Anti-ESA Effort and the Money Behind It

“The assault on the ESA comes in the form of dozens of legislative proposals and amendments tacked onto spending bills. One bill that’s expected to be introduced in a matter of weeks is the handiwork of Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.” –Rebecca Bowe (Continue: Here’s Who’s Getting Paid to Destroy the Endangered Species Act.)

IN its quest for Arctic oil, Russia admits its undersea nuclear dump

GR: If this is correct, it is an unforgivable desecration of the Arctic sea. “The catalogue of waste dumped at sea by the Soviets, according to documents seen by Bellona, and which were today released by the Norwegian daily Aftenposten, includes some 17,000 containers of radioactive waste, 19 ships containing radioactive waste, 14 nuclear reactors, including five that still contain spent nuclear fuel; 735 other pieces of radioactively contaminated heavy machinery, and the K-27 nuclear submarine with its two reactors loaded with nuclear fuel.”

Antinuclear

17,000 containers of radioactive waste, 19 ships containing radioactive waste, 14 nuclear reactors, including five that still contain spent nuclear fuel; 735 other pieces of radiactively contaminated heavy machinery, and the K-27 nuclear submarine with its two reactors loaded with nuclear fuel.

one of the most critical pieces of information missing from the report released to the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority was the presence of the K-27 nuclear submarine, which was scuttled in 50 kilometers of water with its two reactors filled with spent nuclear fuel in in Stepovogo Bay in the Kara Sea in 1981.

Information that the reactors abord the K-27 could reachieve criticality and explode was released at the Bellona-Rosatom seminar in February.

Russia Dumped 17 Nuclear Reactors and Tons of Waste in the Arctic by Charles Digges / Bellona.org, Earth First! Newswire, 30 Aug 12,  Enormous quantities of decommissioned Russian nuclear reactors and radioactive…

View original post 622 more words

Background for World Conservation Day

Nature Conservation Background

World Conservation Day is just around the corner. Here’s a series of background reports on global carrying capacity and human impact from the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere (MAHB). Stock your neurons with useful information. I haven’t finished reading these reports, but the bits I’ve scanned indicate they are important contributions. My pieces on conservation here and here cover some of the ideas. My ideas are less focused on humanity than on the plants and animals of the natural world, but all approaches to conservation have merit. We need them all now.

Cherokee National Forest, Tennessee (Country Living)

More articles from MAHB.

 

Funny or Die: Franken and Letterman take on climate change in hilarious web series

GR: Informative, but obeys the rule, “Don’t say anything if you can’t say something funny.”

“Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) has finally brought his trademark sense of humor to climate change.

“The former Saturday Night Live comedian, now a U.S. senator, teamed up with comedian David Letterman on the first season of a new web series, “Boiling the Frog with Senator Al Franken.”

“The series was created by the website Funny Or Die and “the geniuses behind Years of Living Dangerously,” as Franken describes the producers of the Emmy award-winning climate change series in the hilarious first video.” –Joe Romm (Funny or Die: Franken and Letterman take on climate change in hilarious web series)

Here’s Video 1 in the series:

Why ecocentrism is the key pathway to sustainability

GR: Attention Biophiliacs (lovers of animals and plants). Here’s an article from the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and Biosphere (MAHB) that deals with the central ideas of nature conservation. The authors argue that the common term ‘biocentrism’ implies a limited view focused on living things alone. They explain that the term ‘ecocentrism’ takes a broader view that includes the non-living elements of the Earth systems, the atmosphere, biosphere, geosphere, and hydrosphere. The argument make sense and adds depth to the fact that homocentrism has failed to develop a sustainable role for humans within nature.

We can expect that acceptance of ecocentrism by our strongly homocentric species will be slow. However, the core concept is rational and merits support. Please consider signing the Ecocentrism Statement. As with any such central idea, ecocentrism spurs a plethora of questions and extensions such as the problems with pro-growth economies.

I’ve been pronouncing MAHB as mob. Is that wrong?

“The Earth’s biodiversity and ecological integrity are being lost at an ever-increasing rate due to human impacts. The traditional, post-enlightenment Western anthropocentric worldview has failed to halt this (and is almost certainly responsible for it). Changing our worldview to ecocentrism however offers hope for solving the environmental crisis.

What is ecocentrism?

“Ecocentrism finds inherent (intrinsic) value in all of nature. It takes a much wider view of the world than does anthropocentrism, which sees individual humans and the human species as more valuable than all other organisms. Ecocentrism is the broadest of worldviews, but there are related worldviews. Ecocentrism goes beyond biocentrism (ethics that sees inherent value to all living things) by including environmental systems as wholes, and their abiotic aspects. It also goes beyond zoocentrism (seeing value in animals) on account of explicitly including flora and the ecological contexts for organisms. Ecocentrism is thus the umbrella that includes biocentrism and zoocentrism, because all three of these worldviews value the nonhuman, with ecocentrism having the widest vision. Given that life relies on geological processes and geomorphology to sustain it, and that ‘geodiversity’ also has intrinsic value, the broader term ‘ecocentrism’ seems most appropriate.

Historical roots of ecocentrism

“Ecocentrism as a worldview has been with humanity since we evolved. Many indigenous cultures around the world speak of lore and (in Australia) ‘law’ that reflects an ecocentric view of the world. Ecologist Aldo Leopold in Sand County Almanac wrote the classic evocation of ecocentrism in ‘The Land Ethic’, which expanded the ‘community’ to include animals, plants and the land itself. Philosopher Arne Naess in 1973 coined the term ‘deep ecology’ for similar sentiments, later articulating the notion in Principle 1 of the Deep Ecology Platform.” –Paul Cryer, Helen Kopnina, John J. Piccolo, Bron Taylor, and Haydn Washington (Why ecocentrism is the key pathway to sustainability | MAHB)

Human Mistakes: Deforestation

Forests

Forests are long-lived communities of trees, shrubs, herbs, and wildlife. The communities form over centuries as birds and winds deliver seeds and spores to sites with sufficient moisture for big plants to grow. Across regions occupied by forests, the combined influence of annual precipitation and temperature usually varies from dry with small scattered trees to wet with dense forest with interlocked canopies.

Cherokee National Forest, Tennessee (Country Living)

As forests develop, soils form and a diverse assemblage of arthropods, amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles gathers to fill habitats from the ground up to the canopy. The animals interact with the plants, pollinating flowers, scattering seeds, and forming many novel alliances.

Forests and the litter that accumulates on the ground transform environments. They moderate temperature and they absorb and hold moisture from precipitation. They protect the land from extreme heat and flooding. Forests are much finer places to live than the bare rock and dirt upon which they form.

Landslide in Nepal (Navesh Chitrakar Reuters/Landov)

Forests exist in a dynamic equilibrium with the forces of nature. Across a forest, natural events, fires, windstorms, floods, droughts, and late freezes, are often annual occurrences. These create a mosaic of forest of varying age. In tropical regions with stable climate, forests are older and more uniform in age than they are in temperate regions with variable climate.

Harvesting the Earth: Deforestation

Over the past few millennia, humans have accelerated forest dynamics. We have cut and burned to destroy patches of forest at a higher rate than natural forces ever did. We are doing these things so often, the forests do not have time to recover. And in many instances, we create and maintain crops and plantations that insure the forests will never recover.

Loggers, ranchers, and farmers cut forests for lumber, and cut or burn forests for livestock pastures, plantations, and farms. In the U. S., the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and state forestry departments help timber companies maximize their profits by permitting clear cutting, and by building roads and erosion barriers. With the loss of trees and disturbance of the soil, flooding and erosion often increase. Habitat and wildlife are always lost.

Clearcut forest in Oregon.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, more than half of all animals on Earth have disappeared during the past 50 years (WWF 2016). Deforestation and other human activities are responsible.

Government agencies build roads to ease removal of the forests, and they pay ranchers to build fences and stock watering ponds. Sometimes they attempt to mitigate the harmful effects of tree removal by cutting terraces into the soil to slow runoff and by planting replacement trees. In few or no instances do the agencies give the planted trees enough time to regenerate the original forest before they are cut again.

Global Deforestation

A peatland forest clearing for a palm oil plantation in the Leuser ecosystem, South Aceh, Indonesia. Photograph: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

Deforestation is ongoing around the world as cutting and burning convert forests to pastures, farms, and plantations. For example, Arthur Neslen of the Guardian reports, “Europe’s contribution to global deforestation may rise by more than a quarter by 2030, despite a pledge to halt such practices by the end of this decade, according to a leaked draft EU analysis.

“An estimated 13m hectares (Mha) of the world’s forestland is lost each year, a figure projected to spiral in the next 30 years with the AmazonGreater Mekongand Borneo bearing the brunt of tree clearances.

“But despite signing several international pledges to end deforestation by this decade’s end, more than 5Mha of extra forest land will be needed annually by 2030 to meet EU demand for agricultural products, a draft EU feasibility study predicts.” –Arthur Neslen (Source: Europe’s contribution to deforestation set to rise despite pledge to halt it | Environment | The Guardian)

Justifying Deforestation

People sometimes justify removing the forest as the unavoidable costs of human progress toward a better life of increased comfort and security. In most instances today, however, for-profit companies remove forests with little concern for people’s lives or the consequences for soils and wildlife.

The counter argument that the forest, every tree, and all the animals of the forest have value independent of humans is rarely heard. Here’s how Judi Bari put it:

“Deep ecology, or biocentrism, is the belief that nature does not exist to serve humans. Rather, humans are part of nature, one species among many. All species have a right to exist for their own sake, regardless of their usefulness to humans. And biodiversity is a value in itself, essential for the flourishing of both human and nonhuman life.

“These principles, I believe, are not just another political theory. Biocentrism is a law of nature, that exists independently of whether humans recognize it or not. It doesn’t matter whether we view the world in a human centered way. Nature still operates in a biocentric way. And the failure of modern society to acknowledge this – as we attempt to subordinate all of nature to human use – has led us to the brink of collapse of the earth’s life support systems.” –Judi Bari (Revolutionary Ecology)

Humans have cut and burned forests for thousands of years. The delightfully moderate environments created by forests, the opposite of urban heat islands or the monotony of farms, are disappearing. In our own special way, we are fouling our nest, but unlike the birds, we are not cleaning up after ourselves.


You can expand on this rambling introduction to deforestation by reading more posts on this blog or by reading many of the fine books available on Amazon.

Previous Posts (84) in this blog describe events and consequences for sites around the world.

 

Trump “Review” Includes Seven of California’s National Monuments

GR: Republican tools of homocentric businesses are hard at work opening the land to exploitation. What happened to us? Is this capitalism run wild, or is it something quite a bit simpler. Is the solution simply to outlaw money in politics (this link takes you to one of my posts on this subject)? Would that lead to strong nature conservation, pollution restrictions, single-payer health, financial regulation, restricted arms sales, fewer wars, and more?

Trump Opens Monuments to Exploitation

Seven of California’s national monuments are under “review” as a result of President Trump’s executive order leveling an all-out assault on our public lands.

“In April, the Carrizo Plain National Monument, located in a remote area east of San Luis Obispo, California, erupted with wildflowers in an occasional event known as a “super bloom.” Bob Wick, with the Bureau of Land Management, wrote on the agency’s Flickr page that “(t)he Valley floor has endless expanses of yellows and purples from coreopsis, tidy tips and phacelia, with smaller patches of dozens of other species … (And) the Temblor Range is painted with swaths of orange, yellow and purple like something out of a storybook. I have never seen such a spectacular array of blooms. Ever.”

“The Carrizo Plain National Monument is one of seven California national monuments under review by the U.S. Department of the Interior to determine if they should remain as designated, or if their boundaries or management should be changed by the federal government. This unprecedented review, ordered by President Trump, affects 27 national monuments designated under the Antiquities Act of 1906.

“California’s seven national monuments under review are special places and must remain protected. These areas were designated after years of community-based organizing, extensive effort to detail the specific historical, cultural and ecological values that make these areas meet the strict criteria for monument designation, and broad public outreach efforts. These lands receive overwhelming public support from the local community and stakeholders. After monument designation, collaborative efforts continue with the monument management planning process involving all stakeholders, particularly the local communities around the monuments.

“In California, the president’s Executive Order affects seven national monuments—the most of any state with monuments under review. These seven monuments are widely supported by both Californians and most Americans. Many include lands sacred to Native American Tribes or capture historic locales celebrating our American legacy. Others provide invaluable cultural, scientific and recreational resources that provide immeasurable social, economic and ecosystem protection benefits to local communities. These monuments provide habitat for some of California’s most iconic wildlife, including the California condor, desert tortoise, and San Joaquin kit fox. They are places for both Americans and global visitors to reconnect with nature and recreate.” –Kim Delfino (California’s Monumental Distress – Defenders of Wildlife Blog)

Judi Bari: Revolutionary Ecology and Biocentrism

GR: Judi Bari (1949-1997) wrote clearly and passionately about nature conservation. Her explanation of biocentrism is excellent.

Headwaters Forest Reserve

Biocentrism Definition of Nature Conservation

Judi Bari shows a photo blowup of Headwaters Forest as she speaks at a March 28, 1995 rally for Headwaters at Fisher Gate, near Carlotta CA. Photo (neg. A-22) by Nicholas Wilson, PO Box 943, Mendocino CA 95460.

“Deep ecology, or biocentrism, is the belief that nature does not exist to serve humans. Rather, humans are part of nature, one species among many. All species have a right to exist for their own sake, regardless of their usefulness to humans. And biodiversity is a value in itself, essential for the flourishing of both human and nonhuman life.

“These principles, I believe, are not just another political theory. Biocentrism is a law of nature, that exists independently of whether humans recognize it or not. It doesn’t matter whether we view the world in a human centered way. Nature still operates in a biocentric way. And the failure of modern society to acknowledge this – as we attempt to subordinate all of nature to human use – has led us to the brink of collapse of the earth’s life support systems.” –Judi Bari (Revolutionary Ecology)

Judi Bari read widely and used her knowledge to formulate a working definition of nature conservation. This is what she had to say about Marxist theory:

“According to Marxist theory, profit is stolen from the workers when the capitalists pay them less than the value of what they produce. The portion of the value of the product that the capitalist keeps, rather than pays to the workers, is called surplus value. The amount of surplus value that the capitalist can keep varies with the level of organization of the workers, and with their level of privilege within the world labor pool. But the working class can never be paid the full value of their labor under capitalism, because the capitalist class exists by extracting surplus value from the products of their labor.

“Although I basically agree with this analysis, I think there is one big thing missing. I believe that part of the value of a product comes not just from the labor put into it, but also from the natural resources used to make the product. And I believe that surplus value (i.e., profit) is not just stolen from the workers, but also from the earth itself. A clearcut is the perfect example of a part of the earth from which surplus value has been extracted. If human production and consumption is done within the natural limits of the earth’s fertility, then the supply is indeed endless. But this cannot happen under capitalism, because the capitalist class exists by extracting profit not only from the workers, but also from the earth.

“(Author’s note: At this point, Marxist scholars always object, citing Critique of the Gotha Program to say that Marx did recognize nature, as well as labor, as a source of value. But Marx makes the distinction between use value, which he says comes from nature and labor, and exchange value, which he says comes from labor alone. It is this point with which I am disagreeing. It seems obvious to me that use value, supplied by nature, helps determine exchange value. For example, redwood and fir trees grow side by side in the same forest, and at a similar rate. Yet the same amount of labor applied to cutting and mining a 600-year-old, 6-foot diameter redwood tree will produce more exchange value than if it were applied to cutting a 600-year-old, 6-foot diameter fir tree. The reason redwood is worth more is that it has certain qualities the fir lacks i.e., it is so rot resistant that it can be used for exposed siding or as foundation wood in direct contact with the soil, while the fir cannot. This quality of rot resistance does not come from anything added by human labor. It is a quality supplied by nature. So when I say that value comes from both labor and nature, I am referring to exchange value, not just use value.)” –Judi Bari, Revolutionary Ecology.

U.S. Quietly Removes 17 Sites From UN Biosphere Reserve Network

GR:  Few attacks on nature would be more pointless than this. Is the goal simply to smash anything beautiful and valuable for all people? Of course, somebody out there has a plan to make money on these sites.

Who did this? Trump has probably never heard of the Biosphere Reserves.

Embarrassing that while we remove sites, other countries, including Russia, are adding sites.

The following by Lorraine Chow: “The U.S. has quietly withdrawn 17 sites from the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves program. As first reported by National Geographic, the sites include a number of national forests, preserves and reserves from Alaska to the Virgin Islands (see list below). There were previously 47 biosphere reserves in the U.S. The move was made during the International Coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere Programme meeting in Paris this week. Bulgaria also removed three sites.

“Prior to this year, a total of 18 sites had been removed from the program since 1997, by seven countries,” National Geographic noted.

“It’s not currently clear why the U.S. and Bulgaria asked to remove those sites: requests for comment have not yet been returned. In the past, sites were removed after countries were no longer able to meet the requirements of the program for protecting them.”

“According to the United Nations, biosphere reserves are nominated by national governments and remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located. As detailed by the conservation nonprofit George Wright Society, the biosphere program was launched in the 1970s to establish internationally designated protected areas, help minimize the loss of biological diversity, raise awareness on how cultural diversity and biological diversity affect each other, and promote environmental sustainability. But over the years, the program has been criticized by certain individuals and groups as—per this Infowars post—a United Nations “land grab” of American landmarks.

“The George Wright Society writes: “A large, almost bewildering variety of charges have been alleged about biosphere reserves. Many of these charges revolve around a basic fear and distrust of the United Nations. This category of objections includes such claims as the United Nations is poised to invade the United States, confiscate American land, impose some kind of ‘new world order’ on citizens here, and so forth. There is no truth whatsoever to these charges.”

The U.S. removed the following sites from the biosphere reserve program:

  1. Aleutian Islands National Wildlife Refuge – US Fish & Wildlife Service
  2. Beaver Creek Experimental Watershed – US Forest Service

The Beaver Creek site is not far from Coldwater Farm in central Arizona (photo by Northern Arizona University).

More….–Lorraine Chow (U.S. Quietly Removes 17 Sites From UN Biosphere Reserve Network.)

Wild Amazon Faces Destruction as Brazil’s Farmers and Loggers Target National Park

Cattle graze beside the tree stumps that are all that is left of cleared Amazon forest inside the Sierra Ricardo Franco state park. Photograph: Jonathan Watts for the Observer

GR:  A few years ago, Brazil finally realized that cutting down the Amazon rainforest was causing drought, an effect that Alexander Von Humboldt explained two centuries earlier. The country made an effort to preserve its forest. Then we saw oil prices fall, rampant corruption exposed, and the wealthy had to shift their hungry eyes. The oligarchs replaced conservation sentiments with the old standby, harvest and sell natural resources. In Brazil’s case, this has often been irreversible logging or simply clearing for pasture of the ancient rainforest. The loss of indigenous and migratory wildlife is a sad example of how human greed is destroying the natural world.

I used Google Earth’s history function to show the forest’s destruction in around the Serra Ricardo Franco state park. You can see that destruction accelerated after 1993. It slowed between 2003 and 2013, but that’s because not much was left. Nevertheless, efforts are underway today to harvest the remnants.

Google Earth 12-30-1984.

Google Earth 12-30-1993.

Google Earth 12-30-2003.

Google Earth 12-30-2013

The excellent article below describes what’s happening now to the Amazon Rainforest.

“Today, orange dirt roads, cut into the forest by illegal loggers, lead you to the north-western flank of the elevated hilltop. Now called the Serra Ricardo Franco state park, this is nominally a conservation area set up with support from the World Bank. Instead of forest, however, you find swaths of land invaded by farmers, stripped of trees, and turned over to pasture for 240,000 cows. There are even private airfields inside the park’s boundaries, which exist on maps only.

“Far from being an isolated area where a wanderer might starve, this is now – despite its dubious legal status – one of the world’s great centres of food production. In recent months, it has also emerged as a symbol of the resurgent influence of a landowning class in Brazil who, even more than in the US under Donald Trump, are cashing in on the destruction of the wild.

“Locals say a member of President Michel Temer’s cabinet – chief of staff Eliseu Padilha – owns ranches here on hillsides stripped of forest in a supposedly protected park. The municipal ombudsmen told the Observer the cattle raised here are then sold – in contravention of pledges to prosecutors and international consumers – to JBS, the world’s biggest meat-packing company, which is at the centre of a huge bribery scandal.

“These allegations are denied by farmers but there is no doubt the government is easing controls as it opens up more land for ranches, dams, roads and soy fields to meet the growing appetite of China. Last year, Brazil reported an alarming 29% increase of deforestation, raising doubts that the country will be able to meet its global commitments to reduce carbon emissions. Rather than an aberration, this appears to mark a return to historical norms for a country that has been built on 500 years of land seizures that were later legalised by the politicians who benefited from them.

“The concurrent erosion of legal authority and natural habitat can be seen in many Brazilian states: the newest soy frontiers of Maranhão, Tocantins and Bahia; the hydropower heartland of Pará and the wild west mining and logging regions of Rondônia and Acre. But it is in Mato Grosso that the political forces behind deforestation – associated with corruption, violence, weak regulation and deliberate obfuscation of land ownership – reveal themselves most clearly.” –Jonathan Watts (Continue: Wild Amazon faces destruction as Brazil’s farmers and loggers target national park | World news | The Guardian.)

The endangered Tatu-bola Armadillo, the mascot of the 2014 World Cup is disappearing along with many other inhabitants of the forest (belizar73/Getty Images/iStockphoto).