Mission LifeForce: Criminalizing Ecocide

Mission LifeForce is a growing international movement of Earth Protectors based on a legal document, the Earth Protectors Trust Fund document. It is like a crowdfund, a petition and a legal Trust all rolled into one, and it’s extremely powerful. In fact, it’s the missing piece – making climate and ecological justice possible where nothing else has. For more information, click here.

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Gretel Ehrlich Receives 2017Wilderness Writing Award

Ehrlich_Gretel from FBThe 2017 Wilderness Writing Award goes to American Gretel Ehrlich who has had some incredible life experiences, including being struck by lightening, that she wrote about in A Match to the Heart. She has written about her travels and experiences and is passionately supportive of the environment. The Wilderness Writing Award is bestowed every two years to a living writer for a Lifetime Achievement of work that is meaningful and about wild nature, the environment, or the land. The award is co-sponsored by The Wild Foundation, Fulcrum Publishing, and the International League of Conservation Writers.

Ehrlich was born on a horse ranch in California and was educated at Bennington College (Vermont) and the UCLA film school (California). She began writing fulltime in 1978. Annie Dillard who praised Ehrlich’s 1985 book, The Solace of Open, said: “Wyoming has found its Whitman.” Ehrlich has written several other books including Heart Mountain; Islands, the Universe, and Home; Yellowstone: Land of Fire and Ice; John Muir, Nature’s Visionary; In the Empire of Ice: Encounters in a Changing Landscape; and Facing the Wave: A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami. Ehrlich has also written essays, short stories, and poems. Her work has appeared in Harper’s, the Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Time Magazine, Life, National Geographic Adventure, National Geographic Traveler, Outside, and Audubon, among others.

European Wilderness Society Visits ILCW

Screenshot-2018-2-21 European Wilderness Society meets International League of Conservation Writers
Verena Grubler from the European Wilderness Society (Austria) is shown with Bob Baron and Patty Maher when she stopped by the Colorado (USA) office of the International League of Conservation Writers in mid-February.

Recently, Verena Gruber from the European Wilderness Society, headquartered in Tamsweg, Austria, visited the International League of Conservation Writers at our office in Golden, Colorado. Learning more about each other’s organizations we also discussed how our two organizations can work together on future projects. Gruber is making her way across the U.S. and meeting key people in environmental and conservation positions in the U.S. government, NGOs and private foundations. Her three-month trip will last until March.

Recent Film Festival features ILCW Members

The International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula, Montana recently included films about or by ILCW members. Clay Bolt (ILCW member, USA) was featured in a new short “Clay Bolt” by director Chema Domenech where the conservation photographer talks about photographing bugs and other creatures smaller than your finger. Also, Neil Losen (LCW member, USA) had two films included in the festival that he directed or co-directed: “The Path Back” and “Laws of the Lizard”, winner of Best Broadcast Film that he co-directed with Nate Dappen. For more information click here.

The Clean Water Act and Existing Threats in US Waters

NoWaterNoLife horizBy Isabelle Bienen, NWNL Research Intern
(Edited by Alison M. Jones, NWNL Director)

Part 1 of a 3-part series
The Clean Water Act was created by the U. S. Congress to ensure that those in the U.S. have access to safe drinking water. This blog series will highlight the threats that spurred the creation of this act (citing specific issues in NWNL case-study watersheds); a definition of its regulations; and an analysis of its implementation and implications. Below is the first post in this series which outlines how this Act came to be. It continues to specifically depict existing threats in the Mississippi River Basin (a NWNL case study watershed) that helped shape the Act and those that are addressed in the Act. The second blog in this series will detail existing threats and those addressed by the Act that are in the other 2 NWNL North American case study watersheds: the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia River Basin, and New Jersey’s Raritan River Basin. The third blog will discuss general health threats across the U.S. that also clearly highlighted the need for the Clean Water Act. Read More.

Unprecedented Crime

Climate Science Denial and Game Changers for Survival
In 2017, the heat waves, extreme wild fires, and flooding around the world confirmed beyond doubt that climate disruption is now a full-blown emergency. We have entered Churchill’s “period of consequences”, yet governments have simply watched the disasters magnify, while rushing ahead with new pipelines and annual trillions in fossil fuel subsidies.

This new book by Dr. Peter D. Carter and Elizabeth Woodworth show that governments simply cannot say they did not know. The events we are seeing today have been consistently forecast ever since the First Assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was signed by all governments back in 1990, and which has been described as the best evaluation project ever designed.

Unprecedented Crime first lays out the culpability of corporations, governmental, political and religious bodies, and especially the media through their failure to report or act on the climate emergency. No emergency response has even been contemplated by wealthy high-emitting national governments. Extreme weather reporting never even hints at the need to address climate change ― even though it is producing wars and migrations among the world’s poorest, those who have contributed the least to global warming.

Yet, independently of governments, scores of proven zero-carbon game changers have been coming online all over the world. These exciting technologies, described in the book, are now able to power both household electricity and energy-dense heavy industry. We already have the technical solutions to the CO2 problem. With these solutions we can act in time to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to near-zero within 20 years.

These willful crimes against life itself by negligent governments, the oblivious media and an insouciant civil society are crimes that everyday citizens can readily grasp ― and then take to the streets and to the courts to protest on behalf of their children and grand-children. This thoroughly researched and highly-documented book will show the how.

Consistently Lovely: the Exceptional Field Notes of Martin H. Moynihan

From gulls to squids to monkeys, a Panama-based biologist melds art and science in his highly detailed field books.
By Rebecca Lawton, ILCW member (USA)
Previously published by Hakai magazine
Everything about them is beautiful. Martin Humphrey Moynihan’s field notes, illuminated with marvelous drawings and inventive symbols, leap off the page. Moynihan (1928-1996), an expert on animal behavior and founding director of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama, was known for his distinctive, original pencil sketches, and pen-and-ink renderings of birds, primates, and cephalopods. Portraying three disparate groups all known for their complex social interactions, showing behaviors ranging from squids somersaulting to monkeys arch-posturing, Moynihan managed to produce field notes with superb composition, engaging sketches, and splendid handwriting.

Moynihan grew up in Chicago and traveled extensively in Europe as a youth, becoming fluent in French. His secondary education at Horace Mann School in New York City, along with visits to the American Museum of Natural History, led to his interest in birds. After graduating from Princeton University in 1950 (having interrupted his schooling for army service in Korea), and earning a PhD from Oxford in 1953, Moynihan studied gulls from Canada to Ecuador. In 1957, he became resident naturalist on Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal’s Gatun Lake, transitioning to director in 1966 when the island’s facilities were consolidated as the STRI. He played a critical role over the next 17 years, developing it into a world-renowned research center.

In 1973, Moynihan retired to Albi, France. His Panama notebooks, however, stayed behind at STRI, until shipped to the Smithsonian Institution Archives a few years ago. To date, two volumes of Moynihan’s extensive records have been made accessible online by the Field Book Project, a joint undertaking of the Archives and Smithsonian Libraries. Moynihan’s field notes stand out. “To find such consistently lovely field notes is unusual,” says Lesley Parilla, database manager and principal cataloger for the Field Book Project. “His hatch marks noting vocalization patterns remind me of Persian rug fringe. His handwriting is superb. He has a very strong sense of the visual.” Using ovals at various tilts to represent the angles of animal posture, and creative abbreviations for behaviors ranging from mutual chattering to head bobbing to fish carrying, Moynihan offers layer on layer of pictorial feast and observation.

Avian ecologist Dr. David Whitacre, former senior research scientist for The Peregrine Fund with ongoing studies in tropical birds, finds Moynihan’s field notes exemplary both technically and aesthetically. “The detailed sketches of postures and behaviors are an indispensable part of his field notes,” says Whitacre. Moynihan’s many abbreviations and symbols allowed him to work quickly to record dozens of behaviors and vocalizations that often occurred in rapid, meaningful sequence. “The notes serve as an exquisite example of the power of meticulous observation and description of the nuances of animal behavior,” says Whitacre. Early field ecologists like Moynihan achieved great things armed only with binoculars, a spotting scope, notebook, and pencil.

Driving tigers to the brink

By Sanjay Gubbi, ILCW Member (India)

Previously published by the IUCN Newsletter

The survival of tigers in the wild depends lagely upon the willingness of the tiger range countries to ensure adequate protection of sufficiently large areas from inappropriate development and activities such as roads and poaching.

Roads and traffic threaten tigers across their range in many ways. Research on Amur tigers in Russia suggests that direct mortality due to vehicle collisions can reduce survivorship and reproductive success of the species. The death of individual tigers also results in social instability. The death of a territorial male can lead to infighting of transient males trying to establish territories, infanticide by the new territorial male, and it also affects tigresses due to unstable male ranges possibly leading to depressed birth-rates. Chital and sambar, principal prey species for tigers in the tropical forests of south Asia are one of the commonly killed species in vehicular collisions, resulting in reduced food source for tigers.

Furthermore, roads are used for illegal activities including hunting of tiger and their prey. In the Russian Far East, six Amur tigers were poached over a 10-year period along one road. In 2010, poachers apprehended in southern India confessed to be illegally hunting chital and other deer species in Bandipur, Bhadra, and Biligirirangaswamy Tiger Reserves by driving on roads at night time.

Highways and vehicular traffic act as barriers for movement of tigers affecting their dispersal, movement patterns thereby splitting populations into sub-populations that cause several direct and indirect effects.

Tigers have been affected by new roads in many parts of their range. In western Malaysia construction of the North-South highway, and another highway that bisected a bottleneck area in Taman Negara National Park has caused fragmentation of tiger habitats. The wildlife corridors between Nepal and India are threatened by upgradation of a highway. The effects of roads are serious in India, a stronghold of the global tiger population.

The spike in India’s growth over the last decade has involved a considerable expansion of infrastructural development projects. However, the welcome benefits of economic development have gone hand-in-hand with serious costs both to people and wildlife, especially those that are wide-ranging such as the tigers. Among these, road and highway projects, which provide the vital foundation on which other sectors of the economy can be built, have received a huge boost. This, in turn, has triggered a rapid growth of motor vehicles in India at 10 – 12% per year, and further intensified the demand for better roads. Often, road improvement and highway development projects are proposed within India’s protected area (PA) network, which forms a mere 5% of the country’s landscape. Roads passing through several key tiger habitats, including Corbett, Kanha, Bandipur, BRT, Anshi-Dandeli, Kudremukh, are listed for resurfacing or conversion to highways.

Unlike many forested tracts of Africa, South America or in South East Asia, where road projects open up frontier areas to markets, in India road and highway projects have primarily involved an enhancement in the quality of existing roads, setting off proximate increases in vehicular activity, rather than fundamentally altering connectivity patterns, although important exceptions exist.

Although these roads enhance connectivity between key economic centres, the upgrading of minor roads to high-speed highways also poses a serious threat to tigers and other wildlife. The current rate of mortality of tigers due to wildlife-vehicle collision in India appears to be relatively low, with approximately 20 documented tiger deaths in various reserves over the past 15 years; although this number is likely an underestimate due to non-detection in some instances. Furthermore, as the population size declines and the road network expands, the direct and indirect effects of mortality due to collision with vehicles and fragmentation of tiger habitats will become a greater concern.

In the past the Nature Conservation Foundation has worked with the government in southern India that has resulted in closure of highways for vehicular traffic at night (when the negative effect of traffic is the highest) through two key tiger reserves, development of alternate roads for highways that are closed to vehicular traffic at night, and realignment of a stretch of a highway to outside a tiger reserve. Such moves by the government is extremely helpful in reducing impacts on tigers and their prey.

Given the strong likelihood of changes to vehicular density in India and other tiger range countries, wherever possible, alternative road alignments need to be developed so that high-speed traffic can be permanently kept out of key tiger habitats. Similarly, the closure of vehicular traffic at night, when wildlife, especially young ones, are most susceptible to road-kills, may also be an advisable option inside PAs.

One of a tiger range country’s biggest challenges today is how they could reconcile the pursuit of economic growth with the protection of integrity of tiger habitats. To make economic growth and human development sustainable requires the identification, understanding, and alleviation of the ecological costs of growth and development without forsaking their benefits.

Although roads and other infrastructure are important for economic development, poor planning, disregard of ecological aspects and excessive road expansion into tiger habitats will further fragment and destroy populations and their habitats in the long-term.

For tiger conservation, there is no escape but to invest in a more holistic process of development planning that includes—rather than ignores—the conservation of our priceless natural heritage.

Our experiences in India offer key lessons on managing the impact of roads in the tiger’s range:

  • The most effective mitigation strategy is to decommission existing roads from tiger landscapes, particularly from source populations, and re-route them outside important habitats and prevent construction of new roads;
  • Effective mitigation of road impacts requires engagement of all levels of government and the community;
  • Dedicated wildlife crossing structures will likely be required in tiger landscapes because standard drainage structures alone are ineffective at mitigating the negative effects of roads and traffic.
  • International funding agencies are financing the rapid rate of construction of roads in many tiger-range countries and they must become involved in measures to ensure these developments do not further endanger the persistence of tigers.
  • Rigorous and peer-scrutinised Environment Impact Assessments (EIA) by trained wildlife biologists should assess the broader impacts of roads rather than focussing on the physical aspects of their construction. Second, it is essential that the EIA process be changed such that development projects that are already approved in PAs be assessed on a continuing basis for unforeseen impacts, and post-hoc mitigation measures are legally mandated where necessary to reduce such impacts on tiger habitats.

Sanjay Gubbi is a Scientist at the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF)

Dawn Song

 

(5 am, enroute to the spring board meeting of the Wild Foundation)

By Michael McBride, ILCW Member (USA)

The moon’s smile flickers in sparkling waters,

A sliver arc curls into downstream willows.

This is it, I thought, this is all there is, all there needs to be,

Amused, the Pleiades watches for what would unfold.

Alone with my thoughts, a dark highway, a distant city ahead,

A stream running down valley sending up the sun.

Great Spirit, may this building moon guide my thoughts,

Inspire my words, make bold my actions and lead me to a place

Of joy, peace and renewal among my cherished friends