Nature and Environment
News about the health and beauty of the natural world that sustains us.

Earth Law Center Speaking at EARTHx, the World’s Largest Environmental Conference

Jellyfish by Michelle Bender

Photo by Michelle Bender

I’m so pleased to share with you that Michelle Bender, Ocean Rights Manager at Earth Law Center will be speaking at EARTHx in Dallas on Sunday, April 22 (Earth Day). Founded in 2011 by Dallas-based environmentalist, philanthropist, and businessman Trammell S. Crow, EARTHx promotes environmental awareness by curating the world's largest annual forum for sharing the latest environmental initiatives, discoveries, research, innovations, policies, corporate and NGO practices that are reshaping the future.

Michelle will also unveil the first Ocean Rights Framework in the world; The Framework aims to help local communities and environmental organizations to create management plans for Marine Protected Areas that include Earth Law and rights of nature. Mission Blue endorses the Earth Law Ocean Rights Framework.

After eight months of research, writing, gathering global expert input; Earth Law Center has now completed the Earth Law Framework for Marine Protected Areas. Marine protected areas (MPA) are protected areas of seas and oceans that can take many forms ranging from wildlife refuges to research facilities. MPAs restrict human activity for conservation purposes, typically to protect natural or cultural resources and often endangered marine species.

Did you know that the ocean produces half of the world’s oxygen, absorbs and sequesters one-third of the carbon dioxide human activities emit, provides protection from extreme weather events, and provides a source of food and livelihoods? In fact, 20 percent of the human population depends on the ocean for their primary source of protein, and over seven percent rely on the ocean for jobs and income.[1] The ocean also provides key medicinal components and treatments, such as the anticancer drug, Ara-C[2] and an enzyme to treat asthma.[3]

Being near and on the ocean is proven to boost human mental and physical health.[4] For those of us who don’t live within sight of the ocean, we may forget that human life and well-being depend on the ocean (UNEP, 2011).[5] An estimated 50-80 percent of all life on Earth is found in the ocean.

The Ocean Earth Law initiative joins a growing list of wins in the global rights of nature movement. The Columbian Amazon is the latest area of nature to win rights recognition in January 2018. In addition to Ecuador and Bolivia recognizing rights of nature in their national constitutions, three rivers, national park and sacred mountain also hold rights (the Whanganui in New Zealand, the Atrato in Colombia, the Villacabamba in Ecuador, and Te Urewera National Park and Mt. Taranaki in New Zealand).

This initiative supports several other ocean initiatives launched by Earth Law Center which seek rights for: The Whale and Dolphin Sanctuary in Uruguay, the Patagonian Shelf in Argentina and the Puget Sound in Washington State (US).  Earth Law Center serves to connect and catalyze local partnerships, consisting of communities, indigenous groups, and guardians, to create new laws which uphold and defend nature's rights against harm.

Learn more about ocean rights here

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Darlene May Lee is Executive Director of Earth Law Center, which works to transform the law to recognize and protect nature’s inherent rights to exist, thrive and evolve. She works to build a force of advocates for nature's rights at the local, state, national, and international levels. Connect with Earth Law Center on TwitterFacebookand LinkedIn. Read all of Darlene’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

Resources

[1] OECD, Marine Protected Economics, Management and Effective Policy Mixes: Policy Highlights, 2 (2016), available at: https://www.oecd.org/environment/resources/Marine-Protected-Areas-Policy-Highlights.pdf (“OECD”); United Nations, Overfishing: A Threat to Marine Biodiversity (Aug. 31, 2017), http://www.un.org/events/tenstories/06/story.asp?storyID=800.

[2] National Research Council (US) Committee on the Ocean's Role in Human Health, From Monsoons to Microbes: Understanding the Ocean's Role in Human Health, 4 (1999), available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK230700/

[3] Nicole Levins, Oceans and Coasts, The Nature Conservancy, (Aug. 31, 2017), https://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/urgentissues/oceans/coral-reefs/coral-reefs-and-medicine.xml.

[4] Carolyn Gregoire, Why Being Near the Ocean Can Make You Calmer and More Creative, Huffington Post, Feb. 25, 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2016/02/25/mental-benefits-water_n_5791024.html; Wallace J. Nichols, Blue Mind, Little, Brown and Company (2014).

[5]  OECD, supra at 2.


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The Future of Antarctic Penguins

antarctic penguin

Each year, Oceanites, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Washington DC, releases their report highlighting the current populations of Antarctic penguin species. The State of Antarctic Penguins report (SOAP) tracks the populations of the five species of penguin that live and breed in Antarctica, as well as predicts population trends for the future.

The importance of this information has grown due to the rapidly changing temperatures of the continent, with the average winter temperature having raised about 9 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 60 years.

This annual report was assembled using the most current scientist data, including 3,617 records from 1008 sources, as well as satellite images and on-site researchers.

The report is broken down by the three major regions in Antarctica: the Antarctic Peninsula, Ross Sea, and the East Antarctic. Splitting the report into these three regional sections can help researchers to establish how a penguin colony’s location affects the rise or decline of their species. The report also includes a section that totals all of the populations to get an accurate representation across the entire continent. The populations of these penguins’ ranges anywhere from 13,000 breeding pairs to 3 million pairs.

Oceanites continues to closely track any notable changes in these penguin populations or trends, as well as increasing temperatures in areas where penguin colonies nest. They also study the different impacts that climate change has on each species of penguin, watching how they react and adapt to warmer temperatures.

The non-profit has also released an infographic to easily deliver some of the most notable facts and changes about Antarctic penguins. Some of these highlights include the average life span, height, and diving depth of emperor penguins, the coldest temperature ever recorded on the continent, and the physical size of Antarctica.

With the information collected in this report, researchers can establish new baselines to monitor these penguin populations in the future. They can also more accurately predict what the future of these penguins may hold, in terms of breeding and populations.


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Guardians of the Wild Film Series

elephantSmithsonian Earth has released a new film series, Guardians of the Wild, that follows the continuous efforts of researchers in Zambia to save countless wildlife species. The series is four episodes, and shows the hardships that African wildlife goes through to survive, sometimes with the help of kindhearted humans.

The first episode – which is available free on the Smithsonian Earth website – follows orphaned elephants, and shows the physical and emotional damage that orphaned elephants suffer after poachers shoot their mothers for their ivory tusks.

This series highlights the hard work and dedication it takes researchers working at elephant orphanages to raise young elephants for their release back into the wild. The human researchers at these orphanages must help the elephants learn how to survive in the wild, by teaching them how to eat, drink, and interact with other animals in the wild.

While the first half of the four episode series follows elephants, the second half follows safari predators, such as lions and cheetahs. Since The Zambian Carnivore Program believes that the health of an ecosystem can be assessed based off the well-being of the top carnivores, the second half of the series follows two researchers studying lion prides and hyena clans in Luangwa Valley. The researchers also work to undo the damage that has been done by human beings in the populations of these predators and their environment.

Both perspectives of the series show the constant struggle conservationists go through to protect the species of the African savanna. It also shows how these animals are still continuously in danger from poachers, and how more and more people are stepping up to defend them.

Smithsonian Earth™ is a subscription streaming video service specializing in original nature and wildlife programming shot in stunning 4K resolution that’s available through Apple®, Roku®, Amazon, Android™ and on the Smithsonian Earth website.


This press release is presented without editing for your information. MOTHER EARTH NEWS does not recommend, approve or endorse the products and/or services offered. You should use your own judgment and evaluate products and services carefully before deciding to purchase.

Scientists Are Engineering Crops to Be Drought-Resistant: The Pros and Cons of That

 

Droughts can increase food scarcity issues and compromise farmers’ profitability. Also, it’s likely to happen more often than usual due to climate change. A study of 571 European cities found most of them would experience more river flooding and drought conditions than usual because of environmental changes.

However, scientists recently made significant progress in engineering drought-resistant crops. They achieved that with tobacco by altering the expression of a gene found in all plants, causing them to close the pores in leaves that usually let water escape.

The researchers’ work resulted in 25 percent better water usage in the crops and did not affect yields. They believe that in drought conditions, these modified crops will grow faster and yield more than those not modified for resilience against the lack of water.

The Technology Could Influence International Development

While aiming for future prosperity in the global marketplace, several countries — including India, the Philippines and Kenya — have viewed biotechnology as a tool for international development. They’ve signed international biosafety treaties, and some have enacted national laws. As such, drought-resistant crops could be an essential resource for helping disadvantaged countries achieve sustainability and global prominence.

Some People Steer Clear of Genetically Modified Foods

A study of more than 1,700 adults found there are numerous uncertainties about genetically modified organisms (GMOs). For example, 40 percent of those polled reported avoiding buying GMO foods, and 71 percent of those did so due to worries about adverse impacts on their health. However, only 52 percent knew what GMOs were.

Biotechnology Accomplishments Encourage Better Methodologies

When a newsworthy achievement occurs, such as the tobacco plants that use a quarter less water than their non-engineered counterparts, other scientists and companies capitalize on that momentum and use it to improve their own methods. Progress in the biotechnology sector not only keeps scientists more motivated to explore their hypotheses, but it could result in outcomes that change viewpoints and break down boundaries of what people thought was possible.

In the case of photosynthesis, scientists long agreed it was a factor that limited possible yields. However, scientists at the University of Illinois manipulated a part of the photosynthesis called photoprotection, which slows down the process in shady areas. The study, which, like the first one mentioned, was also on tobacco plants, resulted in up to 20 percent greater yields compared to plants that did not receive that photosynthesis-related tweak.

It’s too early to say if the tobacco crops initially mentioned will have yield increases as the scientists hope, but if they do, scientists could potentially apply the biotechnology to other crops as a way to conquer food scarcity issues.

GMOs Linked to Higher Levels of Herbicide Use

Beginning in 1994 when GMOs arrived in the United States, farmers started using an herbicide called glyphosate to keep pests at bay. Research relating to soybean and maize crops show farmers with genetically modified crops that were resistant to that herbicide actually used more glyphosate over time than those without crops engineered for glyphosate resistance.

Researchers believe that farmers became more dependent on the herbicide to try and kill new varieties of weeds that also resisted glyphosate. That is an example of an unintended consequence of some GMOs that could not have been predicted before real-world use cases.

Also, a long-term study of 100 older adults that took place from 1993 to 2016 found increased amounts of glyphosate in their urine. Researchers discovered that the detectable levels went up over time and suggest a link to consumption of GMOs treated with Roundup, an herbicide with glyphosate as the primary ingredient.

They say the component is found within the crops at harvest time and bring up how ongoing exposure to the toxin in animals causes symptoms of fatty liver disease, and that the state of California considers glyphosate a probable carcinogen. They conclude, though, that further research is required to pinpoint the relationship between exposure and possible human health problems.

On its face, growing crops that need less water than the traditional varieties seems like a remarkable achievement, and indeed, it could bring about some of the positive aspects discussed here. However, it’s necessary to consider the potential cons of introducing another genetically modified crop, especially the downsides associated with public perceptions and increased herbicide use.

Image by Jahoo Clouseau


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Replacing Poisons with Hawks for Rodent Control

birdThe Ventura County Public Works Agency (VCPWA) has conducted the Raptor Pilot Study to observe the effectiveness of predator birds in controlling wild rodent populations. This study is the first of its kind in, and was done in order to discover if predator birds, such as hawks and owls, could be effective than poisons to control rodent populations in California.

Ground rodents can cause significant damage in levees earth dams and other flood control channels. The ground squirrel and gopher populations have been digging tunnels up to 35 feet long under levees, rendering the levees unsafe. A single gopher can also move about one ton of earth every year. So far, these rodent populations have been controlled with harmful poisons.

Unfortunately, these poisons are not only effecting the rodent populations; other larger mammals in the area have also been poisoned in this process. Deceased bobcats, coyotes, and mountain lions in the area have been found with anticoagulant rodenticide residues in their blood.

This is the first time that any agency has tested and quantified the impacts that predator birds on wild rodent populations. Over the course of 17 months, the Raptor Pilot Study released hawks and owls into highly populated rodent areas and studied the effects of their presence on the rodent populations. These birds of prey were able to reduce the populations safely, eliminating the need for rodenticides in the area.

In accordance with this information, as well as the contaminated blood found in deceased larger mammals in the area, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors order all county agencies to discontinue the use of rodenticides and other poisons.

This study has not only proven that birds of prey be an environmentally-friendly substitute to using poisons, but that these predators are more effective than using harmful poisons in the area. The VCPWA showed in this study that using predator birds to hunt the rodents actually reduced burrowing damage by 50 percent when compared to using anticoagulant rodenticides.

“We believe the VCPWA Raptor Pilot Study is the first to quantify the dramatic impact of attracting raptors and finds a natural, chemical-free way to control burrowing rodents,” said Karl Novak, VCPWA Deputy Director of Operations and Maintenance. “We think that comprehensive monitoring and continued expansion of the raptor program will result in cost effective and environmentally safe rodent control throughout our watersheds.”


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Public Vote Decides Use of Waterways Donations

riverAmerica depends on its millions of miles of waterways for many different things, from drinking water and electricity, to transportation and recreation. Often, these waterways go unappreciated, and their value and importance unrecognized. With these waterways rapidly depleting across the country, it is time to give them the attention and care they deserve.

The personal care product company, Tom’s of Maine, is looking to step in and aid the waterways of America. The company has spent the last 45 years developing and producing natural personal care products that focus on natural, responsible, and sustainable practices and products. Tom’s of Maine also donates 10 percent of its profits organizations that help restore and protect the planet.

Tom’s of Maine will be donating 1,000,000 dollars in 2018 to The Nature Conservancy to help protect and repair the waterways of America. The company is looking to spread its donation far and wide, and is asking the public for their help deciding which causes need the money them most. Anyone can go onto the company website and vote for 1 of 4 causes they believes needs them most attention and help.

The following are the four possible options for individuals when voting:

The Colorado River Basin: Restoring and protecting water supplies for people and nature.

The Mississippi River Basin: Restoring key floodplains to reduce nutrient pollution in a basin that covers (or drains) 41 percent of the U.S.

East Coast Dam Removal: Freeing miles of river from Maine to Maryland by removing dams and improving habitat connections.

Sustainable Rivers Program: Working with the Army Corps of Engineers to better balance what people and rivers need to thrive.

The top three voted projects would receive 25,000 dollars, 15,000 dollars, and 10,000 dollars, respectfully, in addition to a guaranteed base level of support provided for each project. With this public poll, Tom’s of Maine has left it entirely up to the public voters which project will receive the most attention and funding.

Remaining funds from the Tom’s of Maine donation will go towards supporting the Conservancy’s North American freshwater program, which will help on-the-ground projects long rivers and river basins, as well as water-use management projects to ensure that more of our waterways are protected in the future.

To vote, simply go to their website and cast your vote for the project you think deserves the most attention.


This press release is presented without editing for your information. MOTHER EARTH NEWS does not recommend, approve or endorse the products and/or services offered. You should use your own judgment and evaluate products and services carefully before deciding to purchase.

Ducks Unlimited Recognizes Conservation Contributions

wetlandsDuring the 83rd North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference held in Norfolk, Virginia, Ducks Unlimited announced the recipients of the 2018 Wetland Conservation Achievement Awards.

These awards were presented in six different categories. The six recipients are individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the preservation and restoration of American wetlands and waterfowl. Ducks Unlimited CEO Dale Hall, with Ducks Unlimited Chief Conservation Officer Nick Wiley, presented the awards in Virginia.

“As always, there were many worthy conservationists nominated for this year’s Wetlands Conservation Achievement Awards. The winners represent how people with a shared passion for wetlands, waterfowl and wildlife can achieve great things for conservation,” Wiley said. “Ducks Unlimited is honored to recognize their work and we hope their achievements inspire others. We all have to work together to rescue our wetlands.”

The following six individuals were honored with this 2018 conservation award:

Jim Stutzman, founder of Montana’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife program, for his work in preserving the wetlands of Montana, spanning 3 decades.

Congressman David Joyce of Ohio, for his constant work in preserving the wetlands of Ohio, and for pushing for conservation legislation during his time in office.

Diane Eggeman, for 3 decades of dedication working with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to strengthen conservation practices in Florida.

Dr. Ray Alisauskas, a research scientist for Environment and Climate Change Canada, adjunct professor University of Saskatchewan, for his years of research on goose, sea duck, and waterfowl ecology.

Lennie Sam and Aline Skaggs, for a lifetime of conservation work in Idaho, leading to the conservation of more than 2,500 acres of land within Idaho’s Snake River watershed.

Dennis Anderson, an outdoors columnist from Minneapolis Star Tribune, for 30 years of engaging storytelling to promote wildlife and habitat conservation.


This press release is presented without editing for your information. MOTHER EARTH NEWS does not recommend, approve or endorse the products and/or services offered. You should use your own judgment and evaluate products and services carefully before deciding to purchase