Unlocking The Cage

GR:  Legal personhood for chimps is the subject of a New York Supreme Court trial underway now. The film described below provides background on the issue. Like Aldo Leopold, I believe that our acceptance of animal equality is as important as controlling human population and global warming if ever we hope to form a sustainable culture on this planet. Respecting chimpanzee rights is a step in the right direction. The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) is preparing other cases. I believe Elephant freedom will be next. Click this link for the Animal Bill of Rights and other legal information.

Here’s the film trailer. The film synopsis follows.

Synopsis, Unlocking the Cage

“Unlocking the Cage follows animal rights lawyer Steven Wise in his unprecedented challenge to break down the legal wall that separates animals from humans. After thirty years of struggling with ineffective animal welfare laws, Steve and his legal team, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), are making history by filing the first lawsuits that seek to transform an animal from a thing with no rights to a person with legal protections.

“Supported by affidavits from primatologists around the world, Steve maintains that, based on scientific evidence, cognitively complex animals such as chimpanzees, whales, dolphins, and elephants have the capacity for limited personhood rights (such as bodily liberty) that would protect them from physical abuse.  Using writs of habeas corpus (historically used to free humans from unlawful imprisonment), Wise argues on behalf of four captive chimpanzees in New York State.

“Unlocking the Cage captures a monumental shift in our culture, as the public and judicial system show increasing receptiveness to Steve’s impassioned arguments. It is an intimate look at a lawsuit that could forever transform our legal system, and one man’s lifelong quest to protect “nonhuman” animals.”  –Source: Unlocking The Cage.

Carnivores in the Crosshairs (H.J. Res. 69)

GR:  This type of management (eliminate predators to please human hunters) is more than just a crime against nature; it’s a foolish plan that has failed many times before. Predator and prey populations go through natural cycles. When people interfere, we can’t predict what will happen. It would be better to hand all the hunters a camera and challenge them to get some unique photos.

The Alaska National Wildlife Refuges Rule is under siege, and the consequences could be dire for bears and wolves in the state.

“You may have heard about H.J. Res. 69, a dangerous bill that jeopardizes bears, wolves and other carnivores by tossing out the Alaska National Wildlife Refuges Rule. This legislation is set to hit the Senate floor any day now, and its enactment could have drastic implications for wildlife in Alaska and public lands management nationwide.

The Low-Down on H.J. Res 69

“H.J. Res. 69 would overturn the Alaska National Wildlife Refuges Rule, which the Obama administration issued last year to conserve native carnivores, including bears, wolves and their young, on as many as 76 million acres of national wildlife refuges in Alaska. The timing of when this rule was finalized matters significantly, as its fate is now subject to the Congressional Review Act (CRA)—you can read more about that here.

“Legislators and their special interest allies already jammed H.J. Res. 69 through the House of Representatives, despite strong bipartisan opposition that labeled it as “The Killing Baby Animals in Alaska Act.” The Senate is currently considering whether to bring this harmful bill up for a vote.

Threatening Wildlife in Their Home

“Without the Alaska National Wildlife Refuges Rule in place, the state of Alaska could pursue its scientifically indefensible predator control program on these federal lands. This controversial program allows the killing of mother bears and their cubs, killing wolves and their pups in their dens, and trapping, baiting and using airplanes to scout and shoot bears. The state’s goal is to drive down carnivore numbers to artificially inflate populations of game species.” –Defenders of Wildlife (Continue reading:  Carnivores in the Crosshairs – Defenders of Wildlife Blog.)

On Nature Conservation

Defining Nature Conservation

Wild animals live in constant peril from weather, predators, and competitors. Their plight evokes sympathy and is the most common spur that goads me into action.  I agree with Aldo Leopold who concluded that survival of life on earth requires that humans accept that they are no more important than any other species.

Sand_county_almanac cover[A] land ethic changes the role of Homo Sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.”  Aldo Leopold, 1949.

Not bad.  “Earth ethic” would indicate the shared importance of life in the oceans and on land. This ethic should encompass air, animals, plants, rivers, rocks, and sea.  It seems to me that, at the time of his death, Leopold hadn’t yet fleshed out his ethics ideas. He hadn’t seen human impacts reach the catastrophic level we see today.  Were he living now, Leopold would most likely be a leading conservation activist.

Few people accept Leopold’s conclusion.  Most of our conservation ideas and practices developed while the needs and impacts of the human population were small compared to the extent and productivity of natural ecosystems. Climate change and other human impacts show that nature is limited.  However, it is difficult for most people to shift their view to include equality for other species. Few can give up the comfort and convenience that often comes at the expense of other species whose lives we take in order to benefit our own.

But look what’s happening. The past decade’s droughts, storms, and spreading deserts show that humanity is changing the Earth. Research coming from many sources shows that worldwide animal extinctions are occurring 100 times faster than in Earth’s previous mass-extinction events recorded in the fossil record.

Extinction isn’t the only concern. Total loss of a species results after years of decline. In 2014, the World Wildlife Fund, the Zoological Society of London, and other organizations carried out an extensive analysis of more than 10,000 wildlife studies. The analysis reached a stunning conclusion: The total number of animals on Earth has declined by more than 50% since 1970.

animal-declinesThis figure illustrates the findings of the World Wildlife Fund (2014) that, from 1970 to 2010, we lost 52% of all animals on Earth. The 2016 WWF report showed that in 2012, the decline reached 57%. Biologists predict it will reach 67% by 2020. The cause? Massive overpopulation by humans and their unsustainable overuse of space and resources.

A look at two sympathetic attitudes toward animals might help understand the different views of nature conservation.  Leopold’s approach aligns with the Rights Position, and traditional conservation aligns with the Welfare Position.

f0268080-8c59-44bc-95ba-3dca72f8c60c.jpgFuture of Nature Conservation

Having followed the news and events of the past decade, I have adopted a cautiously pessimistic attitude toward nature conservation. Nature conservation was humanity’s

polluted-water

Lake Karachay, Russia, has been used by the Soviet Union to dump nuclear waste for years now. The lake has several times the allowed pollutant, and 1 hour of exposure is said to be fatal to everyone (photo from lolwot.com).

great challenge for the Twentieth Century. Nineteenth Century naturalists warned about the environmental damage humans were doing (Andrea Wulff–The Invention of Nature). At the start of the Twentieth Century conservationists like U. S. President Teddy Roosevelt began setting up protective government agencies such as the National Park Service, Forest Service, and others. The Dust Bowl raised awareness of the need for conservation among farmers and schoolchildren everywhere. However, in spite of public concern, we were never able to control the ‘progress’ that inch by inch was converting nature into profits. Farmers, grazers, and loggers eroded the soils, consumed the grasslands, and cut the forests. As these enterprises grew, most of us moved to the cities and abandoned nature to for-profit businesses. Nature conservation faded from common knowledge. We are on our way to destroying most if not all of life on Earth.

With no effective controls over our population and resource use, I believe human extinction is a real possibility. A major war or disease might slow our devastation of the planet, but the only effective inhibitors of our steady destruction of nature are themselves global killers. The most likely are a great solar flare, a massive meteor, and of course, human-caused climate change. The last one, climate change, is a sure bet unless we treat it like the emergency it is and combat it with all of our resources. Our surrender to progress and profit has locked us into a global-warming cycle that will extinguish us and most other species unless we get busy and solve the problem. If we don’t, our grandchildren will inherit an impoverished world on its way toward a complete loss of human civilization.

One ray of hope comes from the predicted intensification of weather extremes. Growing storms, floods, and fires may soon force our leaders to get serious about stopping climate change. Let’s hope, and while we’re hoping, let’s work to limit progress and profit however we can.

Garry Rogers Nature Conservation Articles

Bed of Dan River is Poisoned by Coal Ash for 70 Miles: Turtles Emerging & Dying

GR:  Trump has removed protection from streams. He is probably unaware that the problem below is typical of many situations where mine wastes threaten or actually poison our streams. However, ignorance is not a satisfactory excuse. Can Trump believers continue to support actions that carelessly threaten people and wildlife across the country? Trump promised to remove regulations that restrict business and reduce employment. But did anyone expect he would do so blindly without regard for the long-term consequences? Poisoning people so mining companies can continue profitable operations is not the right way to go.

It’s worth noting that the Environmental Protection Agency forced Duke Energy to assess the coal ash problem. Without the EPA, the company would have simply ignored the problem and moved on. If it’s jobs you want, why not ask the EPA to force Duke Energy and other stream polluters to clean up their wastes? That would create many many jobs. So many.

Ongoing problem: Hibernating turtles are crawling out of the poisoned bed of the Dan River and Dying on the river banks in 2014 (Photo by Greenpiece).

“The bed of the Dan River is covered with toxic coal ash for 70 miles, killing hibernating turtles. The scale of this horrific, preventable catastrophe is now becoming evident.

“As arsenic laced coal ash continues to pour into the Dan River from the Duke Energy waste dump, turtles are crawling out of the poisoned river bed and dying on the banks. Duke Energy has been ordered to stop polluting the Dan River but a second pipe continues to discharge suffocating coal ash into the water following the massive failure of the first pipe under the waste pond. The river bottom is poisoned by toxic ash all the way from the waste dump in Eden to Kerr Lake 70 miles downstream. Federal officials say that the coal ash is suffocating animals that live in the riverbed.

Duke Energy's eroding ash deposits on the Dan River.

Duke Energy’s eroding ash deposits on the Dan River.

“Water treatment authorities say that they have successfully treated and filtered the river water to remove toxins and that Danville’s water is safe to drink. However, arsenic levels in the river continue to exceed federal safe limits. Heavy rains will wash the toxic waste further down the river over the coming weeks spreading the contamination over an increasingly large area.

“Federal officials said Tuesday that toxic coal ash has coated the bottom of a North Carolina river as many as 70 miles downstream of a Duke Energy dump where a massive spill occurred two weeks ago.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service advised that a massive pile of coal ash about 75 feet long and as much as 5 feet deep has been detected on the bottom of the Dan River near the site of the Feb. 2 spill. Deposits varying from 5 inches deep to less than 1 inch coated the river bottom across the state line into Virginia and to Kerr Lake, a major reservoir. …

dan-river“The Dan River system in North Carolina and Virginia is home to two federally listed endangered species, the Roanoke logperch fish and the James spinymussel. The river also has another freshwater mussel, the green floater, which is currently being evaluated for protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

“Officials said the coal ash is burying aquatic animals and their food. The ash, generated when coal is burned to generate electricity, could also clog gill tissues in fish and mussels.

“A second pipe under the huge waste pit has large gaps between sections where the toxic ash continues to drain into the Dan River. All of this mess could have been avoided had Duke Energy responded to environmental organizations’ lawsuits by properly disposal of the waste in dry, lined waste disposal facilities with impervious covers. Instead, Duke stonewalled and gave large sums of money to the Republican Party in North Carolina to get preferential treatment.” –FishOutofWater (Continue reading:  Bed of Dan River is Poisoned by Coal Ash for 70 Miles: Turtles Emerging & Dying.)

Taking the Lives of Wolves

Without Respect for the Innocent

We kill by accident as we drive the roads we built over the woods and prairies, we kill by accident when we hide the land beneath houses and farms, and we kill on purpose when we seek excitement to end the life of a one-time enemy who is now our friend.  Here’s a poem by Mary de la Valette:

wolves-runningThey have run all day
With the Caribou,
Now, silvered shadows
On the moonlit tundra
They gather.
In one small last circle
They raise their heads
In ageless ritual
And sing.
A planetary, timeless howl.

And the wind
Takes their song
In her arms
And scatters it
Like silver rain
Over the earth.
And the last whales
Sing
For the wolves.
And the last elephants
Lift their great heads
And sing.
And all the earth’s children
Sing for the wolves
For they know
What tomorrow brings.

And the wolves
In their silver circle
Sing for life
Sing for the earth
Sing for t he Caribou
For they know
The men in helicopters
Wait.

And tomorrow
They will run with the caribou
Run for life.

By Mary de la Valette

romeo-the-black-wolf-of-alaska Nick Jans

Study says road threat to carnivores is underestimated globally

GR: Roads are an element of widespread human construction that destroys habitat and causes wildlife decline. As reported here, roads have other serious ecosystem impacts. They cause selective deaths of the regulators of food chains, the top carnivores.

While the Iberian lynx is IUCN-classified as “endangered”, other species threatened by roads are not. For example, two species in Japan: According to the projection, the Japanese badger (Meles anakuma) and the Japanese marten (Martes melampus) will have died out in nine and 17 years, respectively, because of the threat from roads.

“The threat of roads to carnivore species around the world has been seriously underestimated, according to a new study that looked at the issue on a global scale.

“After looking at 232 carnivore species around the world (out of a total of about. 270 existing species) and assessing how severely these are affected by roads cut through their habitat, the researchers concluded that some rare species are even at risk in areas with low road densities. The study, published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography, calculated natural mortality rates, reproduction and carnivore movement patterns, determining the maximum density of roads that a species can cope with.

“The study also tried to pinpoint the minimum area of unbroken habitat that a species needs to maintain an enduring healthy population. Finally, they compared these numbers with road network data.

“Among the 5 percent of carnivores (17 species) that are most affected by roads, nine are currently categorized as species of “least concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which means that they are regarded as not endangered.

“Our results show the necessity of updating the protection status of these species, whose threat from roads has previously been underestimated,” said Henrique Pereira, with the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research, the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and the Portugal Infrastructures Biodiversity Chair/Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources (CIBIO-InBIO). –Summit County Citizens Voice (More:  Study says road threat to carnivores is underestimated globally – Summit County Citizens Voice.)

Hedgehogs now a rare garden sight as British populations continue to decline

GR: Worth noting that even in developed countries with slowing population growth, wildlife decline continues. In Britain, many people do small things to make their gardens more wildlife friendly. However, habitat loss and farming continue to cut carrying capacity for most wildlife species. Hedgehog and other species’ declines are accelerating, suggesting that many wildlife populations are no longer self-sustaining and are falling toward extinction. The Guardian story below includes ideas and links for steps to take to support wildlife. Unfortunately, it does not mention the big step, human population control. Without drastic efforts to cut our needs and begin returning the land and seas to their natural state, most of Earth’s wildlife species will disappear (more on human population impact).

Britain’s hedgehog population has dropped from an estimated 30 million in the 1950s to fewer than one million today. Photograph: Rebecca Cole/Alamy

“The plight of the hedgehog in Britain appears to be worsening, with a new survey revealing a further decline in garden sightings.

“The spiky creature was once a common sight, with the population estimated at 30 million in the 1950s. But that has plummeted to fewer than one million today, with a third of this loss thought to have taken place in the past decade.

“The latest survey, conducted with more than 2,600 people by BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, found that 51% of people did not see a hedgehog at all in 2016, up from 48% in 2015. Just 12% saw a hedgehog regularly.

“The poll’s result is in line with an in-depth analysis in 2015 by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species which found urban populations of hedgehogs had fallen by up to a third since 2000 and rural populations had declined by at least a half. Results from a citizen science survey run by the RSPB in June 2016 also revealed a falling number of sightings.

“The decline is not entirely understood but the main factors are thought to be the loss of their habitat in Britain’s towns and countryside – where farming has intensified – as well as road deaths. The fragmentation of habitat is also a problem as hedgehogs roam up to a mile every night to look for food and mates. A possible rise in badger numbers, which can eat hedgehogs, has also been suggested as a possible cause.” –Damian Carrington (More: Hedgehogs now a rare garden sight as British populations continue to decline | Environment | The Guardian.)

How Human Actions are Compromising the Largest Mammal Migration – and Why YOU Need to Care

GR: The growing human population threatens the most numerous and widespread animals. This photo essay by Bee-Elle is about Wildebeest.

Human expansion and development in the surrounding areas of the Serengeti ecosystem have caused a rapid decline of the wildebeest population.

“The Great Migration sees approximately two million beautiful beings moving around within the Serengeti ecosystem, chasing what the fresh rains have provided: greener pastures. Comprised mostly of Wildebeest, and some hundreds of thousands of zebras and antelope, they are constantly on the move, navigating the dangers of big cats and dogs on the plains and the mammoth crocs and hippos wading in the river. It’s the largest large mammal migration in the world and declared one of the greatest wildlife shows on the planet. And what a grand spectacle it truly is.

“Behind the scenes, however, an ecological disaster is taking place.

The Mau Forest, which feeds the Mara River, is rapidly shrinking, creating massive threats to the Serengeti ecosystem.

“The source of this magnificent Mara River, which provides the life-giving water to these wondrous creatures, is the Mau Forest – the largest forest in Kenya, up in the hills, which is rapidly shrinking. In the last 20 years, more than a quarter of the forest has been decimated by human development and agricultural activity. The water that runs from it is increasingly lesser in flow and lower in quality, and in certain periods, droughts at the Mara ensue, resulting in widespread animal deaths. Last year the water flowing out of the Mau was at an all-time low. A lot rests on this forest, which also powers the country’s hydroelectric plants, and fuels key agricultural exports such as tea.

Droughts at the Maasai Mara have ensued due to a lack of rainfall and decreasing water flows from the Mau forest.

“The issue of resettling communities that live there, all of whom have land title deeds, remains at large. Community partnerships to create private conservancies have proven to be a successful strategy in the past, however, time ticks along for the Mau Forest, and if measures aren’t implemented soon, the life-giving veins of the Mara River will become even more polluted, and then dry out. This is one of the biggest threats to the Maasai Mara and the massive ecosystem to which it belongs.

Plight of the Wildebeest

The shrinking state of the forest directly threatens the Serengeti ecosystem and the Great Migration.

“Wildebeest populations are also in steep decline. Rapid population growth and development have caused significant habitat loss and disrupted their migratory corridors and dispersal areas. Fences and roads have blocked routes to important wet season ranges, which are vital for not just their survival, but for the health of the ecosystem. Their movements fertilize the soil, and the trampling of their hooves help to maintain the grasslands. Those migrating also help to feed predators, keeping life’s balance in check. Although the wildebeest are listed as a non-threatened species, they’re considered a keystone species, and much of the land relies on their existence.” –Bee-Elle (Source: How Human Actions are Compromising the Largest Mammal Migration – and Why YOU Need to Care | One Green Planet.)

Endangered Indiana bats face twin threat from wind turbines and white-nose syndrome

GR:  Energy production destroys wildlife. Burning fossil fuel is has the worst impact, but wind and solar are also harmful. Unless we reverse our population growth, cut our resource use, and reduce our energy needs, we will continue to drive our fellow species toward extinction.

Small hibernating bat colonies need protection
to prevent extinction

“Between collisions with wind turbines and deadly white-nose syndrome, endangered Indiana bats may not have much of a chance of recovering, according to a recently published U.S. Geological Survey study.

“The researchers used a scientific model to compare how wind turbine mortality and WNS may singly and then together affect Indiana bat population dynamics throughout the species’ U.S. range.

“Bats are valuable because, by eating insects, they save U.S. agriculture billions of dollars per year in pest control,” said USGS scientist Richard Erickson, the lead author of the study. “Our research is important for understanding the threats to endangered Indiana bats and can help inform conservation efforts.”

“Wind energy generation can cause bat mortality when certain species, including the midwestern Indiana bat, approach turbines during migration. Meanwhile, WNS, which is caused by the Pseudogymnoascus destructans fungus, has killed millions of hibernating bats in North America and is spreading. The new study found that the combination of these two hazards has a larger negative impact on Indiana bats than either threat alone.” –Bob Berwin (Continue reading:  Endangered Indiana bats face twin threat from wind turbines and white-nose syndrome – Summit County Citizens Voice.)

Platform Addition for the Justice Democrats

Justice Democrats Platform Omission

Monarch butterfly at Coldwater Farm.

Monarch butterfly at Coldwater Farm.

I agree with the 20 items included in the Justice Democrats platform. My concerns for nature conservation lead me to suggest an addition.

Defend natural systems from damaging uses. The Earth’s reserves of fertile soil, dense forest, fresh water, and wild animals and fish are declining. Overuse driven by commercial exploitation and by simple need is stripping the lands and seas of life. Biodiversity is declining and ecosystems are collapsing. For the benefit of humanity and all other living creatures, we must insist on proper land use. We must insist that national land management agencies in all nations are empowered to monitor, repair, and regulate the use of the land, water, and life without which human life would be impossible.