Wednesday, April 27, 2011

About those Carnival Barkers and Sideshows: Why Obama shouldn't have had to 'show his papers'

It is a sad day in America. Goldie Taylor eloquently tells us why:


Read Ms. Taylor's full op-ed piece here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"For 40 Years, Every Bird Has Mattered" - International Bird Rescue

Oiled Pelicans from Gulf Oil Spill Photo International Bird Rescue
Today is the first anniversary of the Gulf Oil Spill and while many worthy groups assisted in the clean up and continue to advocate for the region, one phenomenal organization stands out to me for their tireless work in saving the birds. International Bird Rescue has been saving birds for 40 years. A new award winning documentary of their efforts follows the rescue of the 895th pelican that they saved last year. Titled "Saving Pelican 895" the documentary first airs on HBO tonight at 9 p.m. See trailer below:

A summary of International Bird Rescue's work in the Gulf from their website:

When the BP Deepwater Horizon well blew out, International Bird Rescue’s team of bird rescue specialists immediately responded with an all-hands-on-deck effort to rescue oiled seabirds and stop the loss of life. International Bird Rescue teamed up with Tri-State Bird Rescue, the lead oiled wildlife organization on the ground, to initiate bird rescue efforts on the water and help staff rehabilitation centers in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.

This massive oil spill tested the nerves and stamina of our team, as we saw more than 200 million gallons of oil leaked into gulf waters, and over 8,000 birds captured and collected. The oil-stained beaches, marshland and inlets ran from Louisana to Florida. At its busiest moment, Bird Rescue had approximately 88 trained wildlife responders working on this spill. The leaking rig was finally capped on July 15—about 11 weeks after the blowout.

International Bird Rescue and Tri-State Bird Rescue had to navigate politics, the media, and the weather, in finding, collecting, treating and releasing birds suffering from the effects of the oil spill. Thanks to hard work, cooperation and expertise, International Bird Rescue was able to help release 1,246 cleaned birds back to the wild, including Brown Pelicans, Laughing Gulls, Green Herons, Snowy Egrets, Black Oystercatchers, Roseate Spoonbills and many others.

THE SPILL IN NUMBERS

1,246 – Total cleaned birds released back to wild.
8,183 – Total birds captued and collected.
4 – Gulf states where oiled birds were treated.
88 – International Bird Rescue team members on the ground.
6 – Months International Bird Rescue was active in the Gulf.
Pelican waiting to be cleaned Photo Brian Epstein
Spoonbill being cleaned Photo Int'l Bird Rescue
Pelicans Photo Int'l Bird Rescue
Photo Int'l Bird Rescue

Monday, April 11, 2011

Finally! Justice for Mother Earth: Bolivia to pass The Law of Mother Earth

Laguna Verde Bolivia

In the crazy political circus of lets-go-back-to-the-19th-century that seems to be gathering steam in this Divided States of America, climate change deniers, toxic corporations and their henchmen that get away with polluting the environment while paying no taxes, seem to be the ones setting the agenda. Or at least, they are the ones shouting the loudest and the mainstream media gobbles up their insane rhetoric to the detriment of real issues. To say it is disheartening is a staggering understatement.
Nevado Samaja Bolivia
But at least there are some countries on earth that get it. That really get that the fate of Mother Earth is our fate. What happens to the earth affects us. They get that climate change is real, that it is affecting them (as it is affecting all of us) and that a shift is needed from the highest levels of political power. They get that it is long past the time when we should be serious about protecting the environment. They are not waiting any longer for the United Nations to come together on a Climate Change agreement. Today, I applaud the South American country of Bolivia, for being the first country on earth to pass The Law of Mother Earth. Once again, the indigenous people are showing us how it should be done. Now if only we could get some adult behavior from the adolescent jack-asses running things north of the equator. From the Guardian:
Person from Lake Titicaca Bolivia

Bolivia enshrines natural world's rights with equal status for Mother Earth

Law of Mother Earth expected to prompt radical new conservation and social measures in South American nation

Bolivia is set to pass the world's first laws granting all nature equal rights to humans. The Law of Mother Earth, now agreed by politicians and grassroots social groups, redefines the country's rich mineral deposits as "blessings" and is expected to lead to radical new conservation and social measures to reduce pollution and control industry.

The country, which has been pilloried by the US and Britain in the UN climate talks for demanding steep carbon emission cuts, will establish 11 new rights for nature. They include: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.

Controversially, it will also enshrine the right of nature "to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities".

"It makes world history. Earth is the mother of all", said Vice-President Alvaro García Linera. "It establishes a new relationship between man and nature, the harmony of which must be preserved as a guarantee of its regeneration."

The law, which is part of a complete restructuring of the Bolivian legal system following a change of constitution in 2009, has been heavily influenced by a resurgent indigenous Andean spiritual world view which places the environment and the earth deity known as the Pachamama at the centre of all life. Humans are considered equal to all other entities.

But the abstract new laws are not expected to stop industry in its tracks. While it is not clear yet what actual protection the new rights will give in court to bugs, insects and ecosystems, the government is expected to establish a ministry of mother earth and to appoint an ombudsman. It is also committed to giving communities new legal powers to monitor and control polluting industries.
Puna flamingos in Laguna Colorado Bolivia

Bolivia has long suffered from serious environmental problems from the mining of tin, silver, gold and other raw materials. "Existing laws are not strong enough," said Undarico Pinto, leader of the 3.5m-strong Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia, the biggest social movement, who helped draft the law. "It will make industry more transparent. It will allow people to regulate industry at national, regional and local levels."

Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca said Bolivia's traditional indigenous respect for the Pachamama was vital to prevent climate change. "Our grandparents taught us that we belong to a big family of plants and animals. We believe that everything in the planet forms part of a big family. We indigenous people can contribute to solving the energy, climate, food and financial crises with our values," he said.

Little opposition is expected to the law being passed because President Evo Morales's ruling party, the Movement Towards Socialism, enjoys a comfortable majority in both houses of parliament.
Guanaco herd in Bolivia

However, the government must tread a fine line between increased regulation of companies and giving way to the powerful social movements who have pressed for the law. Bolivia earns $500m (£305m) a year from mining companies which provides nearly one third of the country's foreign currency.

In the indigenous philosophy, the Pachamama is a living being.

The draft of the new law states: "She is sacred, fertile and the source of life that feeds and cares for all living beings in her womb. She is in permanent balance, harmony and communication with the cosmos. She is comprised of all ecosystems and living beings, and their self-organisation."

Ecuador, which also has powerful indigenous groups, has changed its constitution to give nature "the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution". However, the abstract rights have not led to new laws or stopped oil companies from destroying some of the most biologically rich areas of the Amazon.

Coping with climate change

Bolivia is struggling to cope with rising temperatures, melting glaciers and more extreme weather events including more frequent floods, droughts, frosts and mudslides.

Research by glaciologist Edson Ramirez of San Andres University in the capital city, La Paz, suggests temperatures have been rising steadily for 60 years and started to accelerate in 1979. They are now on course to rise a further 3.5-4C over the next 100 years. This would turn much of Bolivia into a desert.

Most glaciers below 5,000m are expected to disappear completely within 20 years, leaving Bolivia with a much smaller ice cap. Scientists say this will lead to a crisis in farming and water shortages in cities such as La Paz and El Alto.

Evo Morales, Latin America's first indigenous president, has become an outspoken critic in the UN of industrialised countries which are not prepared to hold temperatures to a 1C rise.

Related post:
Universal Declaration of Planetary Rights

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Cat heart Dolphins