On April 1, 2022 Roxy’s Law, a ban on trapping on New Mexico public lands more than a decade in the making, goes into effect after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed it last year. Nearly 32 million acres of public lands, including state-owned parcels, national forests, and Bureau of Land Management holdings will be free not only of cruel leghold traps, which can amputate and maim, but also from strangulation snares, body-crushing traps, and deadly poisons like sodium cyanide bombs. From the beautiful Latir Peak Wilderness to the incredible Florida Mountains, vast amounts of New Mexico will be safer for people, pups, and wildlife alike. Along with Roxy’s Law, New Mexico has recently taken other meaningful steps toward protecting wildlife.
The history of life on Earth has been marked five times by events of mass biodiversity extinction caused by extreme natural phenomena. Today, many experts warn that a Sixth Mass Extinction crisis is underway, this time entirely caused by human activities. A comprehensive assessment of evidence of this ongoing extinction event was published recently in the journal Biological Reviews by biologists from the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa and the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris, France. "Drastically increased rates of species extinctions and declining abundances of many animal and plant populations are well documented, yet some deny that these phenomena amount to mass extinction," said Robert Cowie, lead author of the study and research professor at the UH Mānoa Pacific Biosciences Research Center in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST).
It’s no secret that the diversity of life around us is plummeting fast. In 2020 alone, scientists declared more than 100 species to be extinct. And that’s bad news not only for the creatures themselves, but for those of us (that would be all of us) who rely on them for food, to produce oxygen, to hold soil in place, to cleanse water, to beautify our world and so much more. According to the World Economic Forum, nature plays a key role in generating more than half of global GDP. So, what can we do to reduce future harm? One big thing is to identify emerging threats and opportunities to protect biodiversity and proactively shape policies and actions to prevent harm early on.
Climate change is only one symptom of a broader ecological crisis; the rapid loss of wild life is equally critical. Most species other than humans and our livestock, (and pets and pests) have had horrifying drops in population within the last 70 years or so, even if they are not yet threatened with extinction. We and our livestock are now 96% of the mass of land vertebrates, leaving all wild creatures together to comprise a mere 4%. At this rate within another generation there may be virtually nothing left but us and our coterie—and we would not survive that, as we depend on a network of life more complex than we can imagine. We’re also seeing the oceans acidifying, filling with plastic and toxins, and warming; topsoil depleted, rivers and aquifers running dry; and the proliferation of nuclear weapons and power plants leaving sites potentially dangerous for thousands or even millions of years.
Animal Rebellion protesters have barricaded a McDonald's factory in Scunthorpe in a move to get the burger chain to switch to an entirely "plant-based food menu by 2025." The ‘animal and climate justice’ movement said that around 100 protestors set up a blockade using trucks, tents, bamboo structures in the early hours of Thursday morning to stop the facility from distributing burgers. Trucks with the sign “McMurder” stood outside the factory while police vans encircled the area. The campaigners, urging others to join in, said they will stay as long as it takes until McDonald’s commits to changing towards a plant-based menu. Accusing the global fast-food chain of poor labour conditions and wreaking havoc on the environment, the activists said that they would end the blockade if McDonald’s makes the first step towards this goal by committing to becoming 20 per cent plant-based within one year.
Ecosystem degradation is accelerated by capitalism, which intensifies pollution and waste, deforestation, land-use change and exploitation, and carbon-driven energy systems. For example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report, Climate Change and Land (January 2020), notes that only 15% of known wetlands remain, most having been degraded beyond the possibility of recovery. In 2020, the UNEP documented that, from 2014 to 2017, coral reefs suffered from the longest severe bleaching event on record. Coral reefs are projected to decline dramatically as temperatures rise; if global warming rises to 1.5°C, only 10-30% of reefs will remain, and if global warming rises to 2°C, then less than 1% of reefs will remain.
At the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, the delegates decided to hold an annual World Environment Day. In 1974, the UN urged the world to celebrate that day on 5 June with the slogan ‘Only One Earth’; this year, the theme is ‘Ecosystem Restoration’, emphasising how the capitalist system has eroded the earth’s capacity to sustain life. The Global Footprint Network reports that we do not live on one Earth, but on 1.6 Earths. We live on more than one Earth because, by encroaching and destroying biodiversity, degrading land, and polluting the air and water, we are cannibalising the planet. This newsletter contains a Red Alert from Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research on the environmental catastrophe that befalls us. Several key scientists have contributed to it. It can be read below and downloaded as a PDF print out here; we hope that you will circulate it widely.
As most of us sat at home during the past year, seeking safety from the pandemic and isolated from each other, we had little to protect us from the onslaught of historic national traumas and anxieties. We watched in horror as over half a million Americans died, millions lost their livelihoods while others had to face the virus at work, an unarmed Black man was slowly murdered by a policeman on camera, and our President encouraged a white rightwing insurrection. All of this is superimposed on the global existential crisis of climate change and the economic abandonment of many places across the country. If years can be ranked by their impact on the mental health and well- being of people, 2020-2021 would easily be near the top of the list.
International Day for Biological Diversity is observed on May 22 under the theme ‘we’re part of the solution.’ A network of youth groups is informing policymakers that young people are tired of the same old rhetoric and platitudes.
If it wasn’t already clear, the Covid-19 pandemic has made it painfully obvious that our lives are entwined with the lives of other animals. Our health depends on theirs, not only because viruses from their bodies can enter ours, but because we survive thanks to the soil they fertilize and the plants they pollinate. And as climate disruption escalates, it’s evident that many animals are buffering us from its worst effects, maintaining ecosystems that absorb carbon and help mitigate the effects of sea-level rise. Conservationists have long cared deeply about the survival of other plants and animals, often for reasons that go well beyond self-interest. But sociologist Carrie Friese, a researcher at the London School of Economics, speculates that in this era of intersecting crises, conservationists and others will be more and more motivated by a sense of multispecies solidarity — a profound understanding that, as Rachel Carson warned in 1963, humans are “affected by the same environmental influences that control the lives of all the many thousands of other species.”
Dear Earth, in this journey that we call our existence, we produce, consume, we eat, drink, breathe and survive because you are the very essence of life. Your voice is clearer than our words, stronger than our laws, and more just than our principles. How do we renew the promises of our Original Trust, and restore the confidence that you gave to past generations? Dear Earth, this Original Trust is an agreement. You have whispered its many names and have warned us of deep contradictions in our understanding of that trust. Now a poison threatens you, us, our home. Its identity might be cloaked but its name is not a mystery. Some have listened, but mostly we have ignored the signs. We have inflicted a deep wound on our own house, and don’t seem to know how or if we will heal. We stand for justice and liberty, but too often brought to our knees by tyranny, alienation and frustration. How do we come to shiver under the hypocrisy of our own principles in practice?
In 1948, after Nazi Germany exterminated millions of Jews and other minorities during World War II, the United Nations adopted a convention establishing a new crime so heinous it demanded collective action. Genocide, the nations declared, was “condemned by the civilized world” and justified intervention in the affairs of sovereign states. Now, a small but growing number of world leaders including Pope Francis and French President Emmanuel Macron have begun citing an offense they say poses a similar threat to humanity and remains beyond the reach of international criminal law: ecocide, or widespread destruction of the environment. The pope describes ecocide as “the massive contamination of air, land and water,” or “any action capable of producing an ecological disaster,” and has proposed making it a sin for Roman Catholics.
The most at-risk ecosystems should be set aside from logging while British Columbia shifts its forestry policies toward a more sustainable system, says a forester who helped write a provincial report on old-growth forests. The report last April co-written by Garry Merkel urged B.C. to act within six months to defer harvesting in old forest ecosystems at the highest risk of permanent biodiversity loss. “There (are) some of those ecosystems targeted for harvesting right now,” he said in an interview this week, six months after B.C. released the report and pledged to implement the recommendations from the panel of two independent foresters who were commissioned to write it. “I do share the impatience of a lot of folks.”
Fifty years ago, my young daughter and I were on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for the first Earth Day. A group of us were then launching the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Since then, the NRDC and other U.S. environmental groups have racked up more victories and accomplishments than one can count. But here’s the deeply troubling rub: As our environmental organizations have grown stronger, more sophisticated and more global in reach, the environment has continued to slide downhill. And not just slightly downhill. Climate change is coming at us very hard. Worldwide, we are losing biodiversity, forests, fisheries and agricultural soils at frightening rates.
Protests continue in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, on Saturday, as a two-week environmental hearing on an expansion at the Mary River iron ore mine wraps up. At noon Saturday, around 50 residents gathered outside the community hall where the hearings are happening. It was – 32 C with the windchill, according to Environment Canada. "We protested and chanted, 'Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, protect our rights, protect our people, protect our animals'," said resident Sheena Akoomalik. At the protest, she brandished a copy of the Nunavut Agreement. She said the legal agreement between Nunavut Inuit and the Canadian government, and its protections for land and harvesting rights, are being ignored.