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[1THING] Blog: Archive for January, 2016

[ Save the Black Rhino ]

Save the Black Rhino

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5particle/Flickr

 

Guest post by Joe Baker, Vice President, Editorial and Advocacy for Care2.

The “butterfly effect”—the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings can set in motion a series of events that result in massive change halfway around the world—is an apt way to describe our increasingly global and connected world.

We could also call this the rhino effect. In the United States or China, the imminent disappearance of the African black rhino may not appear to have much impact, but like the wind generated from a butterfly’s wings, losing the black rhino can have an effect on everything from local ecosystems and economies to global politics and markets.

Close to Home

Perhaps the most obvious impact the loss of the black rhino will have is its effect on nature. Functioning ecosystems are carefully balanced such that species keep each other in check. Removing an entire species can dramatically change this calculus.

In the American West, many scientists link the extermination of wolves to a spike in the elk population, their main prey. This has cascading effects: More elk means more pressure on aspen trees and their other food sources. Fewer elk being killed by predators means fewer carcasses for scavenging species. While nature is often too complicated to draw direct links, it’s clear that change begets change, and species and ecosystems that cannot adapt suffer.

These ecosystem changes have a real human cost as well. The majority of black rhinos live in South Africa, Kenya, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Tourism is a significant contributor to the economies of all these countries. In South Africa—the lowest of the four—it accounts for nearly 10 percent. In Namibia on the other end of the spectrum, tourism comprises almost 15 percent of its GDP.

Tourism directly supports nearly 1 million jobs in these four countries. Indirectly, the industry supports double that, including 19 percent of all jobs in Namibia, according to data from the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Large fauna, including the black rhino, are a primary draw for the millions of tourists that visit these countries. Losing these animals could stem the flow of tourists, not only putting existing jobs at risk, but also potentially leaving these workers with less environmentally-friendly job options.

In 2014, the Financial Times asked if Namibia was “Africa’s next big oil frontier” after oil companies began exploring new offshore oil deposits. Without reliable tourism jobs, such industries become more appealing; As does poaching, a dangerous but lucrative way to support one’s family.

Global Effects

Just as the fate of the black rhino affects their local habitat, the rhinos themselves are not insulated from people who may never set foot in Africa.

Rhino horn is a purportedly powerful ingredient in traditional medicine from Malaysia to South Korea. Traditional Chinese medicine credits rhino horns with curing fevers and improving function. International efforts to reduce demand for rhino horn and curb poaching have worked to a degree in China, where the ingredient was removed from the oeuvre of traditional medicine.

Today, some of the largest demand for rhino horns comes from Vietnam, where it was rumored to have cured a politician of cancer in the 2000s. This rumor drove demand so high that in 2013, at $300,000 per horn, rhino horn was literally worth more than its weight in gold. Basic supply and demand tells us that the fewer rhinos there are, the higher the price will go until they’re poached into extinction.

Technically, international trade in rhino horns was banned in 1977 under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species. But the black market for rhino horns has flourished. This has prompted calls to lift the ban and find ways to simply regulate trade instead. In 2012, two large rhino breeders sued the South African government arguing that, since rhino poaching has increased under the country’s moratorium on rhino trade, it should be lifted.

In 2014, South Africa spent an additional $7 million to increase security at its national parks, but poaching continued. President Obama issued an executive order aimed at combatting illegal wildlife trafficking and, in 2015, released its implementation plan. But even before these added duties, U.S. post inspectors already admitted their inability to keep up with the illegal trade. To do so would require more personnel—and a lot more tax dollars to fund it.

We have serious challenges to protect the black rhinos we have left, but we don’t have much time. The International Union for the Conservation Nature’s (IUCN) most recent black rhino count in 2013 found just 5,055 left. Compare that to the astounding 2,400 that were poached in the previous seven years.

The scariest part is that the rate is increasing. IUCN estimated that in 2013 a rhino was killed every 11 hours. That leaves two choices: Either humans commit to serious action to protect black rhinos, or we start preparing for a world with fewer rhinos, fewer tourism jobs, higher demand for rare horns, and many more impacts we can’t even imagine.

To learn what you can do to protect the black rhino and other African wildlife, visit EarthShare member charity African Wildlife Foundation.

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[ Meet The CSC! ]

Meet the Campaign Support Center

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An operational component of the Finance Department, the Columbus Ohio based Charity Support Center (CSC) provides cost-billed fiscal management services to 21 customers (4 EarthShare affiliated federations, the 7 ES Chapters federations, 5 customer-managed local campaigns, and 5 EarthShare managed regional campaigns). Last fiscal year, the CSC issued 121 payouts of $7.9M to 5,500+ payees.  To manage the customers, the CSC employs the Helix Andar software for its 5 databases – a donor relationship centric product that is utilized by more than 300 United Ways. 

Paul Bingle is Director of Fiscal Services and is supported fulltime by Donor Choice Analysts Kari Bradley and part-time by Brooke Roman-Hidas – who is also ES Ohio’s (ESOH) Managing Director. 

Paul shared that “Our goal is to quietly, professionally, and quickly process the pledges, receipts, payouts, and periodic accounting reporting for our customers.  We utilize the best industry-specific tool available and empower our customers with information while allowing them to focus on revenue production rather than revenue management.”

The CSC started with the 2006 campaign year when ESOH originated the former Affiliate Service Center as both an ESOH revenue enhancement project and to advance several goals of the ES Affiliation Agreement (AA) negotiations.  In 2011, EarthShare took on the project with its 9 customers when ESOH converted to being a Chapters federation.

In consideration of the future and the past, Paul said “As EarthShare considers shifting away from managing campaigns – the CSC will have additional customer capacity.  It would be thrilling to witness the fulfillment of the goal of having all of the EarthShare family workplace financial transactions being processed under one roof, using the same software product.  Equally exciting would be leveraging the information rich databases that we have to harness progressive customer management tools that are available within Andar.  In reflection of the service center’s existence, we have  brought uniformity and efficiency to how 11 federations manage their workplace campaign transactions,  helped empower federations to locally manage multi-federation campaign accounts as revenue generators,  have offset some of the CSC production costs by participating in the management of regional multi-federation campaigns, and have streamlined financial data information flow across the ES federation network.”

 

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[ Susquehanna North Branch Named Pennsylvania River of the Year ]

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Pa. Organization for Waterways and Rivers (POWR) recently announced that the Susquehanna River North Branch right here in northeastern Pennsylvania was voted the 2016 Pennsylvania River of the Year:

“Shaping countless community lifestyles in the past while emerging as a recreational treasure of the future, the North Branch of the Susquehanna — like all waterways nominated for 2016 — highlights how Pennsylvania is blessed with a wealth of rivers and streams, and a core of dedicated folks who fight to protect them,” said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “Through planned River of the Year celebrations, public awareness of the river’s value will be increased and major initiatives along this section of the river will be underscored. Economic revitalization of river-town communities will enhance access to the river; increase tourism; and provide additional land and water-based recreational opportunities for local residents and visitors alike.”

“The Susquehanna River North Branch is a national treasure in our own back yard and we’re grateful for this opportunity to raise awareness of the river’s historical and recreational value and environmental significance,” said EMHR Director Annette Schultz. “We’re making plans to celebrate the Susquehanna River’s newest designation throughout the year with educational kayaking sojourns, river festivals, educational forums, and River Town designations and support. This year will be a banner year for the river.”

“The Susquehanna connects us to one another and the natural world. Its waters rejuvenate us and provide us with power, and its landscapes inspire us to be better stewards,” said Susquehanna Greenway Partnership Director Trish Carothers. “This honor belongs to the river and the many people who care about this very special part of our heritage. We must conserve, connect and enjoy the Susquehanna to ensure a healthy future for our region.”

POWR administers the River of the Year program with funding from DCNR. Presented annually since 1983, the 2015 River of the Year designation was awarded to Conewango Creek in northwest Pennsylvania.

Get more information about the River of the Year program from PR Newswire.

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[ H&M To Launch Eco-Friendly Beauty Line ]

According to Racked, fashion retailer H&M is rolling out a new line of skin, body, and hair products with organic ingredients to complement its long-running, eco-friendly clothing line, Conscious Collection:

The new beauty collection spans 30 products, which range in price from $7 to $13. It’s everything from aluminum-free deodorant to shampoo to face masks, and as seen in Allure‘s gallery, it’s all free of GMOS, parabens, silicon, synthetic perfumes, and dyes.

H&M says it’s using certified organic ingredients, incorporating essential oils as fragrance, and then packaging the products in recycled plastic and paper.

Get more info on H&M’s eco-friendly beauty line, including a launch date, here.

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[ The Human Right to Safe Water in Flint ]

The Human Right to Safe Water in Flint

Pipe

Sebastien Wiertz/Flickr

 

By Erica Flock

“Don’t worry,” my friend proactively reassured me as he handed me a glass of water. “Our filter gets everything.”

I was visiting with friends over the holidays in Flint, Michigan where the new mayor had just declared a state of emergency due to high levels of lead in the city’s water supply. The announcement thrust the struggling Rust Belt city, into the international spotlight.

While the rest of the world was just learning about the city’s water crisis, the people of Flint had been living with the problem for well over a year. When my friends moved into their home in 2014, they immediately installed an expensive filter for drinking water. Somehow they knew they couldn’t trust the water.

And they were right. Despite the state’s repeated assurances that the water was safe to drink, Flint residents suspected otherwise. Only after independent researchers discovered corroded city pipes and unusually high lead levels in children’s blood; only after advocates and the press began raising their voices, did state officials finally admit that the water was indeed poisoned.

As the second-poorest city in the nation, many Flint residents cannot afford the expensive filter my friends had installed. Significant portions of Flint’s population, many of them children, were exposed to lead, a metal that can cause permanent brain damage and other health problems when ingested.

How could this happen in a state surrounded by the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth? And how could it happen in a country with safe drinking water laws?

When the fateful decision to switch water from Lake Huron to the Flint River was made in 2013, the city government was under the authority of the state’s contentious “Emergency Manager” system. This system allowed state leaders to usurp local authority in cities that were struggling financially.

Switching from lake to river water was expected to save the city $50 million dollars, but no one considered what the engineering or health impacts might be, not even the state and federal agencies that were supposed to monitor those things.

As the truth came out and implicated parties began pointing fingers at one another, EarthShare member Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) stepped in to advocate on behalf of Flint residents. In January they joined the ACLU to sue the city and state governments for failing to protect residents under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

“Changes in leadership and public health proclamations are not enough,” said Anjali Waikar, staff attorney for NRDC's Environmental Justice Program. “Flint residents need answers, accountability, and changes in the way that our nation's safe drinking water laws are implemented in Michigan.”

While Flint stopped drawing from the Flint River in late 2015, the damage is already done: you can’t erase over a year of exposure or corroded infrastructure.

As it turns out, Flint isn’t the only city threatened by lead and other toxins. NRDC’s report What’s on Tap? warned about threats to Americans’ drinking water back in 2003. The report came on the heels of Washington DC’s own lead crisis starting in 2001, affecting hundreds of thousands of residents and leading to a spike in stillbirths.

Marc Edwards, the researcher who discovered lead corrosion in both Washington, DC and Flint, says that this is unlikely to be the last time a city is affected. Crumbling infrastructure and poor oversight by local, state, and federal officials create a toxic environment. Cities around the country use lead pipes to transport drinking water and chemical additives are the only things keeping them from leaching.

The banner hanging from a church near downtown Flint proclaims, “Water is a Human Right.” It’s not only a despairing appeal for this beleaguered city, but for all of us. Our basic rights to clean air and water are under threat even in a prosperous country like the US, and require constant vigilance.

 

Learn more about Flint’s water crisis:

Unleaded Please, NRDC

Michiganders Call on Feds for Help in Flint Water Crisis, Food & Water Watch

Key Considerations In Flint Water Situation, Clean Water Action

Flint Water Response Team, State of Michigan

 

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[ Congress “celebrates” national parks centennial with anti-parks measure ]

An amendment offered as part of a Senate energy bill on Jan. 27 would make it prohibitively difficult for presidents to protect national monuments and parks under the Antiquities Act—a shameful way to mark the National Park Service’s centennial year of 2016.

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[ Is Your Toothpaste Polluting the Waterways? ]

On December 28, 2015, President Obama signed into law the “Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015,” which prohibits selling and distributing products containing intentionally-added plastic microbeads.  According to the bill, a microbead is any solid plastic particle that is less than 5 millimeters and is used for the purpose of exfoliating or cleansing.  They are found in many beauty products from toothpaste to body wash and are designed to wash down the drain, but they do not dissolve and can possibly pose an environmental threat.  Environmental Science & Technology reported that more than 8 trillion microbeads were entering the country’s aquatic habitats daily.

Not only are microplastics hard to clean up because they are about the size of a pinhead, researchers say they also pose a threat to marine life.  Some marine life mistake the small plastic for food. Scientists are working to better understand exactly how microplastics and the chemicals in them impact wildlife once they’re ingested – or if the chemicals transfer through the food web, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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[ Sierra Club Sues To Stop The Edge’s Malibu Mansions Project ]

The Sierra Club is suing the California Coastal Commission in an effort to halt approval of U2 guitarist The Edge’s plans to build five mansions on a Malibu ridge.

The Los Angeles Times reports the action filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court says the commission didn’t properly evaluate the project before granting approval last month.

Among other things, the Sierra Club maintains the commission didn’t consider the impact that putting homes in Malibu’s pristine Sweetwater Mesa area would have on air quality and greenhouse gas emissions.

Edge has been attempting to get the project approved since 2011. The plans the commission OK’d last month were a scaled-down version of his original proposal.

Commission spokeswoman Noaki Schwartz said Friday her agency hadn’t yet reviewed the lawsuit and couldn’t comment.

Source:  Pollstar

 

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[ New federal guidelines will help reduce natural gas waste on public lands ]

On Jan. 22, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced guidelines to significantly curtail natural gas waste from oil and gas operations on federal lands.

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[ Environmentalists Praise Action to Curb Methane Pollution ]

Environmental advocates are praising Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposals for new rules to curb methane pollution as an important step toward protecting the health of all Pennsylvanians.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and accompanying pollutants can have serious health consequences for young people with asthma and for seniors with heart disease. But according to Joe Minott, executive director of the Clean Air Council, state regulations were not adequate to handle the boom in gas production in recent years.

“We are now trying to catch up to where other states are, the improvements in technology, and what the federal government is going to require for new sources,” he said.

The Department of Environmental Protection also will develop regulations for existing sources and establish “best management practices” for detecting and repairing leaks.

Nationally, the oil and gas industry is responsible for about one quarter of all methane emissions. Prior to the boom in production, Minott said, the state had no accurate estimate of how much was escaping into the air, but the current levels need to come down.

“What we are looking in Pennsylvania to do with these regulations,” he said, “is reduce the amount of methane that is emitted by roughly 40 percent.”

The industry itself reported almost 115,000 tons of methane emissions from unconventional wells and other operations in 2014.

Some of the changes the governor has proposed can be made by amending existing rules. Others may be more complicated to formulate, and there will be opportunities for public comment. But Minott said he believes the process can happen relatively quickly.

“We would expect him to submit proposed regulations by the spring,” he said, “and my guess would be that it might take six months to nine months before they’re fully enacted.”

The DEP said the new regulations will virtually pay for themselves by recovering gas that is currently escaping into the environment.

More information is online at governor.pa.gov.

-Andrea Sears, Keystone State News Connection

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