Marine debris is a massive problem in our ocean. So big, it can feel overwhelming (trust me, I know!). But the good news is that you and I can help stem the tide of trash entering our ocean, by making simple changes in our day-to-day lives.
One of the easiest ways to combat plastic pollution? Skip the straw.
At last year’s International Coastal Cleanup, volunteers picked up hundreds of thousands of straws and stirrers, making straws one of the top ten items found—sadly this is true year after year. Straws are eaten by sea turtles and seabirds, and have even been discovered stuck in the nares (nostrils) of turtles.
Take action to help the ocean today. Text “straw” to 91990 and pledge to Skip the Straw next time you go out to eat!
Together 25,000 people can save 5 million plastic straws from entering the ocean and filling the landfills in just one year.
Straws are one of the most easily preventable pieces of marine trash. Next time you’re at a restaurant, just ask the server to “Skip the Straw”, and encourage your friends to do the same! And if you really can’t enjoy your drink without it, try one of the many reusable or biodegradable straws out there.
It couldn’t be easier! Text “straw” to 91990 to take the pledge.
Marine debris may be an overwhelming problem, but together we can make a BIG difference.
Pledge to Skip the Straw today and text “straw” to 91990! The ocean, and the animals who rely on it, will thank you.
Pink polka dots and wasps were not an iconic pairing in my mind, but springs walks never fail to deliver awesomeness. My sister and I discovered these polka dot balls on an April walk in a oak pine forest. We had no idea we were admiring wasp handiwork. If a duck quacks, a flower blazes, or a bud emerges—I’m likely to stop and appreciate. Butterflies, dragonflies, and caterpillars halt me, but wasps and flies tend not to engage me. Like many women, I don’t love bugs. My sister and I have been known to run-away, and we love our husbands more when they “save us” from spiders and six and eight-legged home invaders.
Walnut-sized, Dr. Seuss inspired pink polka dot balls on white oaks do make me stop in wonder. My sister and I hovered over them. We prodded them with a stick and walked away scratching our heads. Had we dissected one, we would have found what looked like little seeds, but were in actuality small larvae of the Wool sower wasp (Callirhytis seminator).
These parasitic wasps have co-evolved with the oak so that when the wasps lay their eggs on the deciduous tree in the winter, the eggs and trees respond to spring together. When the eggs hatch, the grub’s secretions stimulate the plant to develop gall tissue. The gall protects and feeds the developing larvae and we get polka dot balls on oak trees.
My prejudice against insects has perhaps diminished (but stay out of my house–and don’t take up residence in my sister’s house either.) a bit. John Muir said that whatever we expect from a nature “we always get more.” I’m finding that this maxim even holds true for insects. The wool sower wasp doesn’t sting, which is true of most wasps.
Take children outdoors and buy them books about nature. Consider this one:
Why does the water of Isa Lake drain in two different directions? Follow Howie Tootalot to the wild land we now call Yellowstone as he and his new bear friend explore the wild geysers, waterfalls, lakes, rivers and more. Danger surrounds them, yet lessons from the wild and the wilderness itself will save them. Learn the Tootalot family legend. Children may download and assemble their own free puppets—just like the ones in the story. Great fun for reading and play at home or in the car. Howie Tootalot in Yellowstone is the second in The Tootalots series. Award-winning parenting author, dons a pen name and introduces Howie Tootalot in this fun legend that offers giggles and some important ways to deal with respecting the danger and wildness of natural wonders such as Yellowstone National Park.
I recently returned to our Arkansas cottage after a quick road trip to see Manatees in Florida. On a dark, cold Jan. morning I walked to Manatee Springs from our campsite to find four manatees in shallow water. They were warming themselves in the relative warmth of the springs. Baby hugged mom. Mom nudged her calf to the surface every 5-10 minutes. Two other manatees seemed to be positioned to protect the duo. In the morning light I could see their massive curvy bodies and they loved and breathed. I watched for a hour, and the rhythm of their respiration calmed my nervous head and heart. That was their lesson to me: love and breathe. Those actions are not passive.
We have all processed many feelings in the last few months. Ready to write? Jack Walker Press themed anthologies are ready to partner with you and respected organizations to deliver artful personal essays and do the important work of art.
Our first collection will explore the theme of transitions. The essay need only be loosely connected to the theme in whatever way you see the connections. We will partner with the University of Wisconsin Madison and assemble and promote this collection during the Write By the Lake class in June. Learn more at http://continuingstudies.wisc.edu/…/…/sessions-speakers.html You do not need to take the Madison class to submit to the anthology. Submit by June, 15, 2017--the earlier the better!
Our second anthology will explore the theme of exclusion and the other. This theme seems even more pertinent to today's political climate than when we selected it last summer. The essays don't have to be political. Marian Fredal and other activists and writers have agreed to participate in the editorial selections for this collection. Profits will be donated to the Southern Poverty Law Center or a similar charity. Submit by Dec. 31, 2017,
On a personal note, I am seeking reviewers for the first two volumes of a children's book series. If you have kids or love kids literature (picture book for early readers--seven or eight and under--let me know via email if you would like a review copies and will post honest reviews on Amazon.
Thanks for reading, and don't you have some writing to do? Let's get our voices out there!
With love and admiration in anticipation of your thoughtful work,
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released the following statement from Omar Vidal, CEO of WWF in Mexico:
"The monarch migration is a phenomenon like no other. But now, it’s imperiled by forces the monarchs themselves cannot control. The reduction in the area of forest they occupied this year - most probably due to the high mortality caused by storms and cold weather last year - is a clear reminder for the three countries that they must step up actions to protect breeding, feeding and migratory habitat."
"We cannot control the climate, but we can do much better in eradicating illegal logging in the reserve and tackling habitat loss in the U.S. and Canada. But, even if Mexico's overwintering sites never lose another tree, without food and habitat along the migration routes the forests will soon bid farewell to their final orange and black-winged tenant."
Consumers can help butterflies by taking care to use wood and wood products from known sustainable sources, protect natural habitats, and to plant milkweed. Many kinds of milkweed are well suited to home landscaping. Gardeners should take care to avoid insecticides. Gardeners who plant native milkweeds and then use insecticides kill monarchs.
Cool new species found. Klingon from the movie Star Trek is one of the 163 new species discovered recently in the Greater Mekong region, according to a report released today by World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The report, Species Oddity, documents the work of hundreds of scientists who discovered nine amphibians, 11 fish, 14 reptiles, 126 plants and three mammals in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
A rainbow-headed snake resembling David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust character, a dragon-like lizard and a newt that looks like a
The discoveries also include a rare banana species from Thailand, a tiny frog from Cambodia and a gecko with pale blue spotted skin and piercing dark eyes that was found hiding among the remote mountains of Laos. This brings the total new species of plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, fish and amphibians discovered in the region to 2,409 since WWF began compiling new species reports in 1997.
“The Greater Mekong region is a magnet for the world’s conservation scientists because of the incredible diversity of species that continue to be discovered here,” said Jimmy Borah, Wildlife Programme Manager for WWF-Greater Mekong. “These scientists, the unsung heroes of conservation, know they are racing against time to ensure that these newly discovered species are protected.”
Highlights of the report include:
• A rainbow-headed snake, Parafimbrios lao, that has been likened to David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust character. It was found among steep karst cliffs in Northern Laos and while originally thought to exist in only one location, it has since been seen in a second one, increasing its chances of survival.
• The Phuket Horned Tree Agamid, Acanthosaura phuketensis, has a fearsome set of horns on its head and spine and was found among the few remaining forest patches on the popular Thai tourist island of Phuket. It is threatened by rapid habitat loss and collection for the pet trade.
• A rare banana species discovered in Northern Thailand, Musa nanensis, is already considered critically endangered due to increasing deforestation and the fact that only a handful of individual plants have been seen. However, the recent discovery of another small population has given researchers hope for the species.
• A new frog species from Cambodia and Vietnam, Leptolalax isos, has a name that is about as long as its body. At 3 cm, this diminutive amphibian is threatened by some major forces – logging, agricultural expansion and hydroelectric projects.
• A newt discovered in Thailand’s Chiang Rai Province, Tylototriton anguliceps, has stunning red and black markings that resemble a Klingon from the movie Star Trek. Its porous skin makes it especially sensitive to pesticides, the main threat alongside deforestation of its habitat.
• A gecko discovered in the remote karst mountains of Laos by a team of scientists who often had to rely on water dripping off stalactites in caves. Gekko bonkowski i is believed the discovery may hold the key to understanding lizard evolution in the Annamite Mountain Range.
• A plant from the Chin Hills of North-western Myanmar that has two petal coverings (sepals) resembling mouse ears. Discovered on Mount Victoria, Impatiens kingdon-wardii is a reminder that Myanmar’s rich biodiversity needs protection as the country rapidly opens up to development.
• A bat, Murina kontumensis, found in the Central Highlands of Vietnam with thick and woolly fur on its head and forearms.
The Greater Mekong region is under intense development pressure from mines to roads to dams, threatening the survival of the natural landscapes that make it so unique. Poaching for bushmeat or the multi-billion dollar illegal wildlife trade puts additional pressure on the region’s wildlife, meaning many species could be lost before they are even discovered.
“Many collectors are willing to pay thousands of dollars or more for the rarest, most unique and most endangered species, often buying them at the region’s illegal wildlife markets, especially in the Golden Triangle region where China, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar meet,” Borah said. “To save them, it’s crucial that we improve enforcement against poaching and close illegal wildlife markets as well as the tiger and bear farms that openly flaunt wildlife laws.”
WWF recently launched an ambitious project to disrupt the trade by closing down the biggest markets in the Greater Mekong region. Working with partners and across borders, WWF will attempt to significantly reduce illegal trade in key threatened species such as elephants, tigers and rhinos by promoting species protection legislation, supporting effective transboundary cooperation and improving law enforcement effectiveness at key border crossings.
Public-Private Funding Supports 21st Century Conservation Service Corps
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced more than $350,000 in funding to engage youth and veterans in hands-on conservation projects on public lands from Big Bend National Park in Texas to North Cascades National Park in Washington State. The grants are part of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC), an ongoing national effort to prepare the next generation of outdoor stewards by training and employing thousands of America’s young adults to protect, restore and enhance our nation’s public lands and waters.
Jewell also announced that travel company Expedia is donating $50,000 in 2017 to fund firefighting crews comprised of returning veterans. Launched during the Obama Administration, the 21CSC has raised more than $20 million in donations since 2013 from businesses, foundations and federal agencies. Expedia joins companies like American Express, REI, The North Face, Thule, American Eagle Outfitters, CamelBak, Coca-Cola, The Campion Foundation, Backwoods, the Albertson Family Foundation and Youth Outdoor Legacy Fund in a national movement to invest in and help prepare future conservation leaders by providing meaningful and lasting opportunities to play, learn, serve and work in the great outdoors.
“Public-private partnerships are essential for developing meaningful and effective strategies to engage youth in service on public lands, from local city parks to the crown jewels of America’s National Park System,” said Secretary Jewell. “By employing young people to restore trails, remove invasive species, rehabilitate historic structures and more, they form lifelong connections to nature and each other, while improving communities where they play, learn, serve and work. Thanks to our many partners for their generous support and for joining us in investing in the next generation of public land stewards.”
The $350,000 in funds announced today will support conservation corps to do work in the following areas:
American YouthWorks ($39,000): Texas Conservation Corps in Big Bend National Park
Student Conservation Association ($115,000): Five years of funding for youth corps in Virgin Islands National Park
Conservation Legacy ($39,500): Tribal youth corps in Petroglyph National Monument in New Mexico and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area on the border of Utah and Arizona
EarthCorps ($44,864): Stewardship & maintenance in North Cascades National Park in Washington state
Kupu ($70,000): Kahakai National Historic Trail, Kalaupapa National Historic Park and FWS National Wildlife Refuges in the Hawaii
Team Rubicon ($50,000): Veteran firefighting crews on public lands through 2017
Through the 21CSC, thousands of young adults and veterans work on projects across America’s public lands, including maintaining campgrounds, preserving historic sites, monitoring water quality, building trails and more. From Denali to the Everglades, youth conservation corps members are gaining work experience, helping improve the visitor experience and mobilizing entire communities in the stewardship of our parks, refuges, waters and heritage.
Investments in conservation corps programs will continue well beyond 2017. The Interior Department has worked closely with the Department of Commerce to secure $8 million for these types of programs through the RESTORE Council. To date, $500,000 has been awarded to five tribal communities (Miccosukee Tribe of Indians, Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana, The Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, and Seminole Tribe of Florida) in the Gulf region. Over the past three years, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the National Park Foundation have helped raise private funding for 21CSC projects. More than 76,000 young people have participated in projects between 2014-2016.
First national human rights investigation into climate change impacts proceeds despite opposition from fossil fuel companies
Manila, 8 December 2016 – The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR) today initiated the next steps in the world’s first-ever national investigation into human rights harms resulting from climate change (1), despite apparent opposition from some fossil fuel companies.
A legal petition submitted by 18 individuals and 14 organisations, including Greenpeace Southeast Asia (Philippines), (collectively known as the “petitioners”) triggered the national inquiry. The petition implicates 47 investor-owned carbon producers including Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Total, BHP Billiton, Suncor, and ConocoPhillips.
The CHR announced that it will start holding public hearings from April 2017, which will be webcast due to the global significance and relevance for other countries. Commissioner Cadiz, who is leading the national inquiry, acknowledged that some 20 companies have responded to the Petition. He also mentioned that independent expert submissions have been received by the Commission. The Petitioners will be submitting a consolidated reply on February 14, 2017.
Petitioners welcomed the CHR’s announcement as indicative of its continued commitment to proceed with the unprecedented investigation in a transparent and inclusive way despite surmountable challenges presented by some of the corporate respondents. The action paves the way toward finding and documenting facts, educating the community, fostering dialogue, allowing for the exchange of information, and enabling mutual understanding among all stakeholders.
“As petitioners, we will continue to advocate for our demands, including an authoritative finding by the CHR that fossil fuel companies must respect human rights and outline steps that would shift their existing business practices away from further contributions to climate change and prevent human rights impacts” said Rose Trajano, Secretary General of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, one of the petitioning organisations.
In July, the CHR requested oil, coal, mining and cement companies to comment on or answer the human rights allegations made in the petition (2). The independent non-profit Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited the companies to share their responses. Only 11 companies volunteered their positions, with some challenging the investigation (3).
“As long as companies and governments fail to act on climate change, every day is human rights day. Today, we got much closer to our aspiration of holding those most responsible for the climate crisis accountable, in order to prevent further harm,” said Yeb Sano, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia and also one of the Petitioners
“Our call has been heeded. The CHR has shown its resolve to pursue this inquiry, and it gives us great hope and inspiration. The journey is still a long way to go, but the wheels of justice are turning forward. The reality of climate change and how it affects human rights has been put on the spotlight, and ultimately, when people stand together and rise above adversity, justice will prevail.”
The national inquiry is one of the many people-powered legal actions related to climate change initiated around the globe, from Indigenous Peoples in Canada, grandmothers in Switzerland, farmers from Peru and Pakistan, to youth in the United States and Norway, and Dutch and Belgian citizens (4). In each of these cases, people are pushing back using the power of the law, because governments and fossil fuel companies are failing to protect and respect human rights.