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Into The Wild

3 Victories in Fighting the Illegal Wildlife Trade



Illegal trade in wildlife is a billion-dollar black market costing the world untold losses as animals, many from endangered and/or threatened species, are hunted and killed. Tigers are hunted for their genitals and rhinoceroses for their horns for use in traditional Asian medicine; rare monkeys, bears, parrots and many other valuable and beautiful creatures are captured, drugged and smuggled around the world. Conservation organizations have sought to work with governments to increase law enforcement and criminal penalties for poaching wildlife but to say progress is slow is an understatement.

Certainly it is depressing, and can leave us with a sense of hopelessness, to hear one account after another about endangered wildlife cruelly killed. But three recent reports show that, while it is certainly an uphill battle, the fight to preserve wildlife is resulting in some small victories.

1) A narwhal tusk smuggling ring is busted in Maine.

Two Americans have been charged with smuggling narwhal tusks from the Canadian Arctic into Maine in what seems to be a “decades-long racket,” says the Smithsonian. Two Canadians have apparently been smuggling the tusks (which are actually an enlarged canine tooth found only in male narwhals) to two Americans, Andrew Zarauskas and Jay Conrad, who have allegedly sent some 150 narwhal tusks off via FedEx. Zarauskas and Conrad are to be arraigned this week.

While it not illegal to hunt narwhals in Canada (which lists them as “near-threatened”), it is against the law to ship their tusks to the U.S. and sell them.

Narwhals dwell “in the cracks of dense pack ice for much of the year,” says the Smithsonian. They are difficult for researchers to track and study as they hurry quickly away from motorboats and helicopters. All the more reason, says Grist, that it is “sort of infuriating that horn-smugglers managed to catch them when legitimate scientists can’t.”

2. Hong Kong makes the third mass seizure of ivory in three months.

At then end of last week, Hong Kong officials seized a $1.4 million cache of ivory. Authorities discovered 779 pieces of ivory weighing a total of 2,916 pounds in a shipping container that had passed through Malaysia after leaving Kenya. It’s a supply chain that has become all too common as the seemingly insatiable demand for ivory in China and Thailand (for sculptures and adornments) has led to the poaching of elephants at record levels including the recent killing of an entire family of eleven elephants in Kenya.

Hong Kong police have not yet arrested anyone after forty sacks of ivory were found inside five wooden crates in a container that was said to be carrying architectural stones.

A single pound of ivory can fetch prices of $1,000. In both October and November of last year, a total of three illegal shipments of ivory totaling in the millions were seized in Hong Kong.

3) Thousands of shark fins found drying on an industrial building roof in Hong Kong.

Gary Stokes, the coordinator for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in Hong Kong and a photographer, was recently able to take photographs of thousands and thousands of shark fins drying on the roof of an industrial building in Hong Kong over the course of three days. You can see more photos via Stokes’s blog, a truly sickening sight when you think about how many sharks were bloodoed and killed for their fins.

Soup made with shark fins is a traditional delicacy in Chinese cuisine and has been much in demand as the country’s middle class has grown. Serving bowls of shark fin soup at weddings and other events is a status symbol, though one that has fallen increasingly out of favor in Hong Kong and certainly among those of Chinese descent in the U.S.

Indeed, China itself announced last year that shark fin soup would no longer be served at state banquets. But this remains a window-dressing move so long as the Chinese and Hong Kong governments shy away from implementing aggressive policies to stop the eating, hunting and selling of shark fins.

It is probably too much to ask. But let’s work in this new year so that conservation effort victories can not only be about seizing animal parts bound for the black market but about saving the animals themselves.

(via mandolinaes)

“If you’re willing to walk the path of a dreamer, anything is possible”

(Source: battlescarredconquistadorr)

Protecting California Coastline as National Monuments



Drakes Estero in Point Reyes National Seashore is a gorgeous place. An amazing variety of plants, birds, and wildlife call the seashore home. As a bonus, it’s one of those breath-taking areas not far at all from a major city — this one being about 25 miles northwest of San Francisco.

The Sierra Club campaigned to establish the national seashore in 1964, and successfully lobbied Congress to designate Drakes Estero as wilderness in 1977. But there was a catch. Much of the seashore was designated as the Phillip Burton Wilderness in that year, but Drakes Estero had a temporary non-wilderness commercial use present which was due to expire in 2012, so Congress declared the estuary potential wilderness and directed the Secretary of Interior to make it a fully protected wilderness as soon as possible. .

That event happened on December 1,when U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar allowed the lease for a commercial oyster farming operation to expire as scheduled and designated Drakes Estero as a marine wilderness area — the first of its kind on the West Coast. Wilderness is a rare and steadily shrinking resource in the continental United States, and marine wilderness is even less common.

In fact, Drakes Estero is the only large wild public estuary suitable for marine wilderness designation to be found between Mexico and Canada. We’re thankful for this move by Secretary Salazar and the Obama administration. Any action we can take to protect more of our nation’s wilderness is a significant addition to the wilderness legacy we’re leaving for future generations.

Although no one rejoices to see a local business close, this transition has been planned and promised for decades. Naturally, we are sympathetic to the workers affected by this decision and are therefore pleased that Secretary Salazar has allowed the company 90 days to wind down operations, and that he has also directed the National Park Service to use all legal tools, including financial and relocation assistance, to help transition the employees.

Meanwhile, we continue to encourage President Obama to expand his wilderness legacy and continue permanently protecting our land and water. One way to do that is by designating more national monuments across the U.S. so our kids and grandkids can enjoy these places in the years to come.

One potential national monument is only a two-hour drive from Drakes Estero, in Mendocino County. The Stornetta Public Lands are another beautiful area composed of coastal wetlands, dunes, tidepools, cypress groves, meadows and more. Visitors can see a variety of birds and other wildlife there as well.

Permanently protecting Stornetta would be a boon to the local economy. The area would continue to attract tourists who love recreational activities like hiking and fishing. According to one study, tourists drawn to Mendocino County in part because of places like Stornetta have helped create nearly 5,000 jobs and have generated more than $110 million in economic activity.

And this is just one example of an amazing U.S. landscape that would benefit from a national monument designation. I’m fortunate to have Drakes Estero and Stornetta so close to my home here in California — living near such natural splendor is something I don’t take for granted.


Everyone deserves the same opportunity to live near beautiful, protected lands and waterways. President Obama, we urge you to leave a lasting outdoors legacy by naming more national monuments. Protect these areas for future generations to cherish and enjoy.

BuildingGreen’s Top Ten Green Products of the Year Are Not Sexy, But They Will Make A Difference.


Proglaze ETA Engineered Transition Assemblies/Promo image

The BuildingGreen Top Ten Products awards remind me of the Oscars. Everybody watches them and talks about them, and pretty much ignores the Scientific and Technical awards given out two weeks earlier. The BuildingGreen awards are like that; they are scientific and technical, are generally not particularly photogenic. I mean, Proglaze ETA Engineered Transition Assemblies from Tremco are not exactly the George Clooney of green building, even if they reduce heating loads and prevent moisture or air quality problems. Others show better on the red carpet.

Haiku/Promo image

Much sexier is the Haiku Fan. BuildingGreen writes:

Most ceiling fans use low-cost, AC motors that offer poor energy efficiency; the fans themselves are often poorly made, loud, and unattractive. Haiku ceiling fans, manufactured by Big Ass Fans, have brushless, electronically commutated DC motors for increased energy efficiency. Designed for both residential and commercial applications, Haiku ceiling fans use 2-30 watts, significantly exceeding Energy Star requirements.

The Haiku is from Big Ass Fans. When I first wrote about them, I titled my post Great idea, Dumb Name and thought that architects wouldn’t specify a product with such a name. Everyone called me a prude and the company sent me a rubber donkey. Interestingly, two websites covering the BuildingGreen products of the year call it Big A** and the Haiku has its own website that downplays Big Ass. Is America getting even more prudish than it was six years ago?

Amorim expanded-cork boardstock insulation

Amorim expanded-cork boardstock insulation/Promo image

Perhaps these awards are sexier than I gave them credit for. We are big fans of cork for so many reasons; it’s a renewable resource (bark is harvested every nine years), maintaining cork production protects the natural habitat of the short-toed eagle and the Iberian lynx, it employs 62,000 workers in a country seriously hit by the Euro-recession and protects an area half the size of Switzerland from more mindless real estate development.

BuildingGreen also notes that cork insulation is made without harmful blowing agents or halogenated fire retardants.

Fram/Public Domain

Fridtjof Nansen lined the interior of the Fram with seven inches of cork; it kept him warm for years in the Arctic and kept Amundsen toasty in the south. 120 years later, it still insulates the boat on display in Oslo.

More on cork in TreeHugger:
Yes To Cork — Save Forests, Jobs and the Iberian Lynx
Cork vs Plastic: How Real Cork is Harvested and Why It Matters
Inside the Cork Wars
Corticeira Amorim, Portugese Cork Supplier’s Sustainability Report

Atlas CMU block with CarbonCure

Atlas Block/Promo image

Wait a second, this is getting sexier by the moment. I have spent years complaining about concrete and how 5% of CO2 emissions come from making the stuff. Now Canadian block manufacturer Atlas Block (which we wrote about earlier for their use of Poraver glass beads) is using CarbonCure technology to actually inject CO2 into the concrete.

[Atlas Block takes] CO2 supplied from local industrial sources and injects it directly into concrete masonry units (CMUs) during production using a specially designed mold. Atlas Block is using the CarbonCure system primarily to reduce the carbon footprint of its products, but injecting CO2 into CMUs during manufacture also improves their strength, reduces the amount of portland cement required, and speeds curing. Atlas Block also offers products with post-consumer recycled glass. Atlas Block / CarbonCure is the first product brought to market that sequesters CO2 without requiring a dramatic change in current manufacturing processes.

That’s a very big deal. I won’t get to the point where I call concrete green, but this is certainly better. See:
Concrete: Can it be Green?
BuildingGreen Tells You Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Concrete

Viridian reclaimed wood

Viridian Flooring/Promo image

No, science fiction author Bruce Sterling has not gone into the flooring business. But some of his Viridian Design principles certainly apply to Viridian Reclaimed Wood:

Huge quantities of wooden pallets, crates, and packing materials used to ship goods to the U.S. are discarded daily, wasting a valuable resource and clogging our landfills. In its Oregon facility, Viridian Reclaimed Wood processes these materials from the Port of Portland and then creates flooring, tabletops, paneling, veneers, and other products for use in commercial and residential buildings.

Lets just hope that the flooring doesn’t include the Viridian principle of “Planned Evanescence”: “the product and all its physical traces should gracefully disintegrate and vanish entirely.”

GeoSpring hybrid electric water heater from GE

GeoSpring hybrid electric water heater from GE/Promo image

This isn’t just an efficient water heater (although it is that, being a heat pump that is twice as efficient as a conventional electrical resistance water heater) but it is also at the forefront of a manufacturing revolution in the USA. Charles Fishman wrote a terrific article in the Atlantic Monthly that discusses it:

This year, something curious and hopeful has begun to happen, something that cannot be explained merely by the ebbing of the Great Recession, and with it the cyclical return of recently laid-off workers. On February 10, Appliance Park opened an all-new assembly line in Building 2—largely dormant for 14 years—to make cutting-edge, low-energy water heaters. It was the first new assembly line at Appliance Park in 55 years—and the water heaters it began making had previously been made for GE in a Chinese contract factory.

BuildingGreen doesn’t explain why anyone would want a 50 US gallon water heater, that seems huge to me.

Other Best Products:

OK I take back my introduction. It may be hard to get excited about WUFI software from Fraunhofer IBP and Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Cyber Rain smart irrigation controllers, (who needs lawns, anyways?) but there are some seriously sexy products in this year’s list after all.

Cause An Uproar


About the Initiative

From lions in Kenya to snow leopards in the Himalaya, the big cats of the world need help. Lions, tigers, cheetahs, leopards, jaguars, and other top felines are quickly disappearing, all victims of habitat loss and degradation as well as conflicts with humans.

To address this critical situation, the National Geographic Society and Explorers-in-Residence Dereck and Beverly Joubert, have launched the Big Cats Initiative, a comprehensive program that supports on-the-ground conservation projects, education, and economic incentive efforts and a global public-awareness campaign. “We no longer have the luxury of time when it comes to big cats,” says Dereck Joubert. “They are in such a downward spiral that if we hesitate now, we will be responsible for extinctions across the globe. If there was ever a time to take action, it is now.” You can help us make a difference. Your donation can help save a big cat and ensure the Earth is not without these majestic creatures. Please donate today! You also can help by signing up for Big Cats Initiative updates with the Explorers Newsletter. To see how we use donations to BCI, read our 2011 Annual Donor Report.

First Step: Halting Decline of Lions and Cheetahs

Lions are dying off rapidly across Africa. These cats once ranged across the continent and into Syria, Israel, Iraq, Pakistan, Iran, and even northwest India; 2,000 years ago more than a million lions roamed the Earth. Since the 1940s, when lions numbered an estimated 400,000, lion populations have blinked out across the continent. Now they may total as few as 20,000 animals. Scientists connect the drastic decreases in many cases to burgeoning human populations. The Big Cats Initiative aims to halt lion population declines by the year 2015 and to restore populations to sustainable levels.

Who’s Involved

The Big Cats Initiative is made up of conservationists led by National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence Dereck and Beverly Joubert. Having lived and worked in some of Africa’s most remote areas for more than 25 years as authors and filmmakers, the Jouberts have embraced the cause of wildlife conservation, especially for big cats. They are active conservationists in Botswana, members of the IUCN Lion Working Group, and founding members of the Chobe Wildlife Trust and of Conservation International in Botswana. The Jouberts also work in ecotourism and on building community partnerships.

Partners and Funders Sought

National Geographic will collaborate with local and international NGOs, corporations, local community groups, and individuals to work with saving lions and ensuring the future of this multiyear initiative.

Read more facts about big cats.


NOTE: Make sure to check out everything on this site! Sign petitions & post them to your social networking sites, watch the videos, read about what you can do! Please spread the word, this is a serious issue that is only rapidly growing more serious! Act now!

(Source: )

Greenland Loses 200 Billion Tons Ice Per Year


Greenland is losingmore ice, faster, and it’s going to have a

big impact on sea levels.

Greenland ice

Satellite data reveals that Greenland is losing ice at an alarming rate.

Glacier-covered Greenland has had an average net loss of 200 billion tons of ice every year since 2003, confirm scientists who are studying the changing mass of the island using satellite data. The latest analysis backs up the previously reported trend without even including the last two summers of record-breaking ice melts.

“Greenland is really the place where everyone agrees that (the ice melt) is definitely accelerating with time and there is a big contribution to sea level rise,” said researcher Isabella Velicogna of the University of California at Irvine (UCI).

Velicogna is an expert at analyzing the same kind of data used in this most recent study: from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) which can detect mass changes on the surface of the Earth over time. GRACE does this by detecting subtle increases and decreases in gravity, which is directly related to the mass below the two orbiting GRACE satellites.

Just how much is 200 billion tons of ice? Roughly, it’s the amount needed to fill enough railroad coal cars to encircle the Earth 800 times.

In the latest work, Princeton University researcher Chris Harig and Frederik Simons applied a new method to analyzing the GRACE data. They found that during 2003 and 2004, mass loss was centered along the eastern coast of Greenland. From 2005 to 2006 mass loss dropped in the northeast but rose in the southeast. Meanwhile, more mass was lost along the northwest coast, especially from 2007-2010. They published the results of their work in this week’s issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science

“The study confirms what we already knew,” said Eric Rignot, an Earth Systems Science Professor at UCI and scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. “The authors use a new decomposition, but the sources of error and corrections are essentially the same as for other studies.”

“The main message from this work is that we are doing a much better job figuring out where the mass is melting,” said Harig.

The new study also confirms that the mass of central Greenland is slowly and slightly increasing, which Harig and Simons attribute to a possible increase in snowfall there. But Rignot and Velicogna disagree that more precipitation is the cause.

“The claim that the mass increase in central Greenland reveals an increase in precipitation in Greenland as expected in a warming climate is incorrect,” said Rignot. “Precipitation in Greenland is more complex and is concentrated along the coastal sectors. So the changes observed in central Greenland are insignificant in terms of total precipitation. Regional climate atmospheric models, in fact, do not show any change in total precipitation in Greenland over the last few decades.”

Whatever the reason, the take home message is that the, the small amount of increase detected in central Greenland is not remotely enough to offset the melting along the coasts, said Velicogna.


TODAY, 6 YEARS AGO… The Full Length Short Film FROM YESTERDAY was released! RELIVE IT →

The Endangered Speedster of the African Wild


The Endangered Speedster of the African Wild

They’re beautiful, they go from zero to 60 miles an hour in three seconds, and they’re endangered.  Cheetahs — the race cars of the wild — have declined since 1900 from more than 100,000 in Africa and Asia to a mere 10,000 today, according to the National Geographic.

Two reasons for the decline of cheetahs are a loss of habitat to human development and the illegal pet trade in cheetah cubs. Cheetahs are relatively small and shy compared to other big cats, and, unlike lions, they cannot roar, says Roff Smith, the article’s author.  Even in African game parks, which should be places of protection, cheetahs are under pressure. Lions and other animals that are larger and stronger are pushing them to the brink.

Cheetahs once roamed throughout Africa and Asia, but most are found in Africa today. The cheetahs left in Asia are “living on a knife edge,” says Luke Hunter, president of Panthera, which supports cheetah conservation in Iran. Hunter added that despite the odds, Asian cheetahs are “tough and versatile,”  with small numbers managing to survive in the mountains. An important focus of Aid for Africa’s mission is the preservation of African wildlife.

Other Aid for Africa member organizations are also working to save the cheetah. Wildlife Conservation Network supports cheetah conservation in Botswana and Namibia. Friends of Conservation–Friends of the Masai Mara supports wildlife conservation programs that include cheetahs.  Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in northern Kenya works as catalyst for the conservation of wildlife, including the cheetah and its habitat, by integrating wildlife conservation into economic needs of local people. Learn more about what Aid for Africa members are doing to protect cheetahs and other wildlife in Africa.

Aid for Africa is an alliance of 85 U.S.-based nonprofits and their African partners who help children, families and communities throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Aid for Africa’s grassroots programs focus on health, education, economic development, arts & culture, conservation and wildlife protection in Africa.


California’s New Cap-and-Trade Emissions Trading Program is Second Largest in World


California’s cap-and-trade program, six years in the making, starts today, with auctions for permits to pollute starting this morning and the results announced next Monday.

The basic details are as follows:

It’s the second largest carbon trading program in the world, after the EU’s—which probably isn’t surprising to learn if you remember that California’s economy is alone in the world’s top 10.

The auction part isn’t to see who wants the right to pollute more next year—nearly all of the pollution allowances in the program for 2013 have already been given to utilities and industry in the state—rather the auction is to determine what price the market will bear for the carbon.

Auctions will be held four times a year through 2020, with the total amount of carbon pollution allowed to be emitted declining over time—and as such, should drive up the cost of polluting, thereby encouraging industry and utilities to choose non-carbon emitting ways of doing business.

The money from the auctions will go towards state-level investments (though the details of that are TBD), with 25% of proceeds used in ways that target disadvantaged communities.

Right now only large polluters are included in the program, but that will expand in years to come.

One looming question: Will the California program be able to avoid the price volatility that has plagued the EU experience with carbon trading? There’s a price floor of $10/ton established, intended to ensure that even when prices fluctuate polluting is still more expensive than not polluting.