Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Big Life Protecting Wildlife in Amboseli Ecosystem

Please consider donating to Big Life Foundation to support their great efforts in protecting endangered wildlife from poaching. See their film on the important work they are doing:

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Christiane Amanpour on the Poaching and Trafficking of Wildlife

Christiane Amanpour from ABC News on the escalation in the horrific poaching and trafficking of wildlife fueled by demand from China:

Symphony of Science: Al Gore on Climate Reality

Saturday, November 17, 2012

RIP Qumquat...Elephants gunned down...please stop the madness

Qumquat and her family brutally slaughtered~ Photo by Nick Brandt the day before..

My heart breaks with this news of the senseless slaughter of elephants that is raging across Africa. The latest horrific story comes from Kenya where the elephant matriarch Qumquat, who was photographed just the day before by the amazing photographer Nick Brandt, was slaughtered for her tusks along with three generations of her family leaving a lone traumatized orphan. This maddening elephant slaughter is being driven by the desire for ivory in China. Estimates are that 35,000 elephants are being killed each year in Africa. At this rate elephants in the wild will be wiped out within 15 years. Read and weep. And if you are so inclined, please consider helping out the Big Life Foundation which is doing what it can to protect these beloved elephants.

From the NYT Dot Earth blog:

Qumquat, one of the best-known matriarchs in the elephant population of the Amboseli ecosystem on the Kenya-Tanzania border, was photographed with her family on October 27 by Nick Brandt. Just 24 hours later, the old female and most of the others were gunned down by poachers. One day later, the old female and nearly all of the other elephants in this group were found slaughtered. Their faces had been hacked off by the poachers to be sure they gleaned every ounce of ivory from the tusks.(Click here for photographs of the result – not for the squeamish.)

Read on for a description of this incident and the resulting hunt for the killers by Richard Bonham, who co-founded Big Life Foundation with Brandt a few years ago to raise money for anti-poaching patrols around the park. There’s more on their work on Dot Earth (the same post is here in Chinese). Here’s Bonham’s report from the field:

The crack of a heavy rifle, designed specially to kill elephants, is unmistakable. It’s a little like a sonic boom, a crash followed by a roll of sound not unlike thunder.
This is what the Big Life rangers, manning an observation point on the Tanzania border, heard on Sunday afternoon. Three shots in quick succession.
This triggered the radio network to burst into life, as they called in for support from Kenya Wildlife Service and other Big Life teams in the area. The reaction was textbook, and in less than an hour and half, a combined unit of Big Life and KWS rangers were on the scene.
As dusk set in, a ranger spotted three men. One of the poachers raised a rifle and fired at the rangers, sending the team scurrying for cover. It would have been suicide to continue the pursuit in the fading light, so the teams pulled back to resume the follow-up at first light.
I arrived by plane at sunrise the following day to give aerial support and look for carcasses. After an hour and half of fruitless searching, we received news that a fresh tusk, still covered in blood, had been found on the poachers’ tracks. The follow-up team split up, some continuing with the poachers tracks, others backtracking to find the carcasses.
At midday the gut-wrenching news arrived. Three dead elephants had been found, their faces cut away, their ivory gone.
The team from Amboseli Elephant Research identified the dead as Qumquat, born in 1968, one of Amboseli’s most famous and oldest matriarchs, and her two daughters, Qantina and Quaye.
Just 24 hours before they were gunned down, Nick Brandt took the above photo of the three of them, alive on their last afternoon together.  You can see that he was just a few feet from the family, so trusting, so relaxed. Such easy pickings for poachers with a mind to murder for profit.
At the front is Qumquat, beyond her two daughters, Qantina and Quaye. As for the three youngest, two are missing, the younger almost certainly dead now. Only the youngest calf is alive, a story in and of itself….
When the rangers found the carcasses, Qumquat’s youngest calf, only ten months old, was also there, watching over his mother’s carcass. The calf, traumatized at having watched its mother shot and butchered, had stood vigil all night alone.
He was caught – not easy – and led to a position where the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust rescue team could get it onto a vehicle. He was then transferred to an aircraft chartered in from Nairobi, which then flew him back to the Sheldrick orphanage.
The professionalism of this operation, orchestrated by the Sheldrick Trust, was so smooth, that any First World emergency response ambulance would have been proud to have been a part of it. Sadly they have had too much practice in recent years.
All in all, it was a good example what can happen when everyone pulls together, in this case Big Life Foundation, Kenya Wildlife ServiceAmboseli Trust for Elephants and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
Meanwhile, the poachers’ tracks that the Big Life teams had been following had disappeared where the poachers entered settled country. Even bringing in the dog unit at this stage would have been fruitless.
But as it so often does, Big Life’s informer network came through. We were informed of the location of one of the key poachers, and the following day, the Big Life teams, in partnership with KWS, arrested him.
It was a notorious long-term poacher who, to be honest, we had already arrested a year ago. He had been jailed, but then released far too soon. This time, we are confident he will be put away for a long time. We also know the identity of one of the other poachers, who is in hiding. Generally, they eventually surface, and we will be waiting.
But it’s so disturbing, once again, how the poachers, greedy and brutal, gunned down Qumquat’s daughters, who possessed such small tusks, for just a few extra dollars. All in a day’s ‘work’.
After a week in which Amboseli’s elephants suffered the worst single slaughter in some time, we ask ourselves what we need to do differently. We are determined to do more, to make sure that something like this does not happen again. There are two clear solutions:
We need rangers in the right place at the right time. The solution – additional mobile camps – is low tech, simple and reasonably cheap. Our permanent outposts would have the capability of setting up 4-man mobile camps that can be deployed into areas as the wildlife moves, or where a poaching threat is deemed serious or imminent. The costs are just over $2000 per mobile camp, one for each of the 14 current outposts.
We believe that it will make a huge difference – not just because it will mean we can get men to the scene faster, but also as a deterrent, because poachers will not know when and where the camps will be deployed.
Our current radio system, which has to cover the 2 million acres Big Life rangers patrol, is completely inefficient compared to the new digital systems. Amongst many major improvements, all the new digital radios, vehicle or handheld, have built in GPS, and as such can be tracked in real time on screens in the radio room of Big Life HQ.
In an incident such as the Qumquat family killing, we would have known exactly where all our units were and which unit was best placed to respond. We could have then directed them much more efficiently. This could have made the difference in tracking down the poachers in time before they escaped.
There are many more reasons why this system will dramatically improve Big Life operations and ultimately pay for itself. A full breakdown can be read here.
The costs for the above are :
14 x MOBILE CAMPS @ $2000 each $28,000
$105,000 would pay for these immediate major improvements to our anti-poaching operations. 
We would be hugely grateful if you donated today, something, anything towards this amount, knowing that animals’ lives, and the health of an entire precious ecosystem would be improved by your contribution.
Qumquat was a truly special matriarch, who successfully led her herd for many years.
In one hellish afternoon, three generations of her herd were exterminated. But there are thousands of other Qumquats and sons and daughters all across the vast African ecosystem. Please help us to protect them.
Thank you in advance, Nick Brandt & Richard Bonham
Donate at :
I was glad to see Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, even amid so many other pressing foreign-policy challenges, committing the United States to doing more to cut the illicit trade in wildlife and related products. There’s no time to lose. Keep track of this issue on Twitter using this tag: #stopwildlifecrime.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Climate Action 2.0: DIVESTMENT

Hurricane Sandy Hope River Jamaica
Let’s face it: changing light bulbs and recycling are not working. It’s just not enough. We continue to blast more and more carbon into the atmosphere each year. Scientists tell us the safe limit for carbon in the atmosphere is 350 parts per million. We’re at 392 parts per million and the upward march continues. The climate is warming and Hurricane Sandy is just a harbinger of what’s to come if we continue to gorge on fossil fuels. As Bloomberg Business Review so starkly stated last week: “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.”

So what can we do? How do we turn this thing around when we face an industry that basically owns Congress? That denies climate change is happening, and that operates with total impunity. How do you convince a morally-absent behemoth that its short-sighted profits-before-life business plan needs to change? How do we get a movement together that takes the MATH seriously?

I’m excited about the new path of climate action proposed by Bill McKibben and that aims to show the fossil fuel industry the power of what a movement can do.

From The Do The Math tour will make it clear why the fossil fuel industry is so determined to block progress. As McKibben wrote in a groundbreaking article in Rolling Stone this June, the climate crisis can be boiled down into three simple numbers: 2°C, 565 gigatonnes, and 2,795 gigatonnes.

Even the most conservative governments in the world have agreed that global warming should be limited to no more than 2°C. Scientists say to meet that target we can only emit an additional 565 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But the fossil fuel industry has 2795 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide in their reserves, nearly five times too much — and everyday they spend millions of dollars looking for more.

“What this math shows is that the fossil fuel industry is a rogue industry,” said McKibben. “You can have a healthy fossil-fuel balance sheet, or a relatively healthy planet – but now that we know the numbers, it looks like you can’t have both.”

I call it Climate Action 2.0. This new approach aims to engage universities, colleges, pension funds and religious institutions around the country to divest from their investments in the fossil fuel industry. This divestment strategy to bring about change to recalcitrant actors has worked before. Witness the demise of the apartheid regime of South Africa which was brought to its knees through the power of collective divestment in South African companies.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: “We could not have achieved our freedom and just peace without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the apartheid regime. Students played a leading role in that struggle.”

Now it is time to send the fossil fuel industry a similar message.

I attended the Do the Math tour event in Palo Alto, California on Saturday night. The event was sold out, as it was in Seattle, Portland and other cities last week. This movement is mobilizing and has a lot of support material to get people informed and set-up to planning and staging successful divestment campaigns on campuses and other institutions. There is already one university that has taken the bold step of divestment. Stephen Mulkey, President of Unity College in Unity, Maine wrote this about the decision of the Board of Trustees to divest:

"I am proud to be a part of the program of divestment, and I am especially proud of the Unity College Board of Trustees for their willingness to make this affiliation. Indeed, the Trustees have been on the path of divestment for over five years. The Trustees have looked at the College’s finances in the context of our ethical obligation to our students, and they have chosen to make a stand. I can think of no stronger statement about the mission of Unity College.

Our college community will lead by fearless action. We will confront policy makers who continue to deny the existence of climate change. We will encourage those who work in higher education to bravely step out from behind manicured, taxpayer funded hedges, and do what needs to be done. We will not equivocate, and we will meet those who have been misled by climate change denial in their communities.

The time is long overdue for all investors to take a hard look at the consequences of supporting an industry that persists in employing a destructive business model. Because of its infrastructure and enormous economic clout, fossil fuel corporations could pump trillions into the development of alternative energy. Government subsidies and stockholder shares could be used constructively to move these corporations to behave responsibly.

Higher education is the crown jewel of the United States system of education, and it remains the envy of the world. Higher education has always been dedicated to the highest standards of honesty and integrity. If our nation’s colleges and universities will not take a stand now, who will?"

If you live on the east coast, visit the website to see the upcoming tour dates and do not miss this event if the climate and the future of life on earth means anything to you. And if you are considering divestment of your own individual portfolio, the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment is a good resource.

For the earth.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Disconnect on Climate Change in the Political Cycle

Anyone see this headline of a few days ago? "Climate change deaths could total 100 Million by 2030 if World Fails to Act." Anyone care? Tonight is the 1st Presidential debate and the absence of any discussion on climate change is unbelievable and a serious moral negligence.
Discussion from a Huffpost Live panel:

Saturday, September 8, 2012

R.I.P. Caribbean Coral Reefs

The latest diagnosis on Caribbean coral reefs is dire. We need immediate action to protect the remaining 10% of reefs struggling to survive in the face of decades of overfishing, climate change and now, lionfish. Overfishing and climate change are reported in this report as the prime causes of Caribbean coral reef collapse. Let us hope that that the newly signed Belize Declaration on Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) will prove to have meaningful outcomes for protecting the Caribbean marine environment from illegal overfishing. Meanwhile, Jamaica, (a participant in the Belize Declaration) whose marine environment has been decimated by overfishing continues to wait for  positive local action on conservation. Are Jamaican lawmakers content to sit by with the deplorable reputation of being "the most overfished nation in the Caribbean?"  From a Sept 6, 2012 National Geographic Newswatch report:

The Caribbean’s coral reefs have collapsed, mostly due to overfishing and climate change, according to a new report released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

In the most comprehensive study yet of Caribbean coral reefs, scientists have discovered that the 50 to 60 percent coral cover present in the 1970s has plummeted to less than 10 percent.

“I’m sad to tell you it’s a dire picture,” Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme, said at a news briefing Friday at the World Conservation Congress in Jeju Island, South Korea.

Called “Nature’s Olympics,” the conference will explore five environmental themes over five days. Today’s theme is Nature+ Climate, which focuses on how to combat global warming.
Much of the decline is caused by a massive die-off of sea urchins in the 1970s—possibly due to disease. Without these reef grazers—the “cows in the field” that keep vegetation in check—the number of algae and grasses have skyrocketed, dominating reefs and pushing corals aside, Lundin said.

What’s more, overfishing of grazer species such as parrotfish or surgeonfish is allowing more algae to take over and outcompete the coral, said Ameer Abdulla, IUCN senior advisor on Marine Biodiversity and Conservation Science.

“Coral reef communities are just like human communities—there are different roles that are fundamental to keeping the system going,” Abdulla said.

For example, if all the engineers were taken out of a human society, that would affect how the society functions.

The same phenomenon is happening with the loss of the Caribbean’s grazers, he said.

Global Warming Also at Play
The scientists also said that warmer water—often caused by hurricanes blowing through—have harmed reefs. When the water gets too hot, algae that live inside coral, called zooxanthellae—abandon their hosts, causing the coral themselves to bleach and eventually die.

Though some reefs can bounce back from such periods of warmer water, notably in the Indian Ocean, ”We have heating happening with much higher frequency and for longer duration,” Lundin told National Geographic News.

For instance, some 500-to-a-thousand-year-old corals in the Indian Ocean have died due to warmer water.

“We know with some certainty we haven’t had this happen for a thousand years, that’s a clear indication that something’s afoot,” Lundin said.

“For those that are very skeptical of what’s happening with climate change, I would say reality is not in their favor.”

Caribbean Collapse a First—Others May Follow

Corals are vital for many reasons, from boosting tourism dollars to local communities and even buffeting islands themselves from powerful storm surges, Lundin said.

The good news is that there are ways to protect the remaining 10 percent of Caribbean corals.

“The urgency of improving management is certainly there—our message is we need to encourage the people who are the custodians of the resources to take charge. We do know a lot about what one can do,” said Lundin.

For instance, putting in place marine protected areas can reduce the pressure of overfishing. Governments can also work with local fishers to maintain their livelihoods, for instance by raising the value of individual fish so that the fishers catch fewer animals.

The bottom line, Abdulla said, is that “the Caribbean system is one of first systems to experience collapse—it’s something that will happen across the globe if human use of coral reefs continues as it is.” ~ Christine Dell’Amore, environment writer-editor for National Geographic News, is reporting from the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju Island, South Korea.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Jamaica 50 August 6 2012

Look at her...*tears*...our little island nation celebrates her 50th year of independence on August 6!  Even with all our challenges and many hurdles yet to cross, I join with every Jamaican who celebrates independence and the achievements of so many of our fellow Jamaicans on the Rock and within our wide diaspora.  Check out this recent Toronto Star article titled "Jamaica Punches Above Its Weight" on Jamaica's achievements. There is much to be proud of.

The official Jamaica 50 website has updates and links to all of the events on the island and in the diaspora communities. Me, out here in the outer banks of the diaspora, I'll be cooking up some ackee and saltfish, jerk chicken, rice and peas and celebrating with some Appleton with a few close yardies in Portland (and keeping an eye on our #TeamJamaica at the Olympics).


ONE LOVE!!!!! 
Jamaica 50

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Vandana Shiva talks GMO's with Bill Moyers

One of the greatest heroes on the planet, Vandana Shiva, talking to Bill Moyers about the problem with genetically modified food. This is essential viewing for anyone who cares about the health of our food supply and who gets to control it. Vandana Shiva brilliantly distinguishes here the difference between globalization as we have it today with corporations controlling commodities, as opposed to the sustainable flow of interconnectedness which is the path we should be striving towards:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hijacking of America: Charles Ferguson on Democracy Now!

Compelling, must-watch interview on Democracy Now! with Charles Ferguson, Oscar-winning documentary film-maker of Inside Job and author of the newly released book Predator Nation:Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption and the Hijacking of America. Ferguson lays out the intersection of academic collusion with financial malfeasance in stark terms. The recent boondoggles with the Facebook IPO and J.P. Morgan Chase multi-billion losses are just the latest examples of everything wrong with the financial system in this country.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

MARLEY - Movie on the life of Bob Marley opens Friday April 20, 2012 in theatres and on-demand

Cannot wait to see this! From the movie website:
Bob Marley's universal appeal, impact on music history and role as a social and political prophet is both unique and unparalleled. MARLEY is the definitive life story of the musician, revolutionary, and legend, from his early days to his rise to international superstardom. Made with the support of the Marley family, the film features rare footage, incredible performances and revelatory interviews with the people that knew him best. Directed by Kevin MacDonald (The Last King of Scotland) ~ In theatres and on demand 4.20.2012 
From a Wall Street Journal interview with the director Kevin MacDonald:  
What is it about Bob Marley that has made him so enduringly popular more than 30 years after his death? 
I think the key for me to understanding him is that he’s really the only third-world superstar. Nobody from the developing world has ever gone on to have that level of fame and international success. The whole reason why dreadlocks are in fashion, that’s because of Bob. No country is as associated with a single individual as Jamaica is with Bob. Go anywhere around the world, especially in the developing world, and you find people who worship him. His mural is all over the place. Even in the Arab Spring, in the closing credits [of “Marley”] we have a clip of people singing “Get Up, Stand Up.” Then you have the whole musical thing—there’s nobody who doesn’t like Bob Marley’s music.

Friday, April 13, 2012

It's the Climate: Connect the Dots

Utterly brilliant 2 minute video brought to you by the folks that give a s&*% about what's happening to the earth, the climate, and whether there will even be a habitable earth 7 generations from now. Watch and join the Connect the Dots Climate Impacts Day action on May 5, 2012:

Invitation from Bill McKibben of

Dear Friends

 Across the planet now we see ever more flood, ever more drought, ever more storms. People are dying, communities are being wrecked — the impacts we’re already witnessing from climate change are unlike anything we have seen before. 

 But because the globe is so big, it’s hard for most people to see that it’s all connected. That’s why, on May 5, we will Connect the Dots.

 In places from drought-stricken Mongolia to flood-stricken Thailand, from fire-ravaged Australia to Himalayan communities threatened by glacial melt, we will hold rallies reminding everyone what has happened in our neighborhoods. And at each of those rallies, from Kenya to Canada, from Vietnam to Vermont, someone will be holding a…dot. A huge black dot on a white banner, a “dot” of people holding hands, encircling a field where crops have dried up, a dot made of fabric and the picture taken from above — you get the idea. We’ll share those images the world around, to put a human face on climate change–we’ll hold up a mirror to the planet and force people to come face to face with the ravages of climate change. 

Anyone and everyone can participate in this day. Many of us do not live in Texas, the Philippines, or Ethiopia — places deeply affected by climate impacts. For those communities, there are countless ways to stand in solidarity with those on the front-lines of the climate crisis: some people will giving presentations in their communities about how to connect the dots. Others will do projects to demonstrate what sorts of climate impacts we can expect if the crisis is left unchecked. And still others of us will express our indignation to local media and politicians for failing to connect the dots in their coverage of “natural disasters.” 

However you choose to participate, your voice is needed in this fight — and you can sign up here: 

These will be beautiful events, we’re sure. But they will also have an edge. It’s important for all of us whose lives are being damaged to know that it’s right that we get a little angry at those forces causing this problem. The fossil fuel industry is at fault, and we have to make that clear. Our crew at will work hard to connect all these dots — literally — and weave them together to create a potent call to action, and we will channel that call directly to the people who need to hear it most. 

May 5 is coming soon; we need to work rapidly. Because climate change is bearing down on us, and we simply can’t wait. The world needs to understand what’s happening, and you’re the people who can tell them. 

Please join us–we need you to send the most important alarm humanity has ever heard: 


Bill McKibben for the whole team at

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Jamaica and Climate Change

Havendale flooding, Kingston, Jamaica ~ Tropical Storm Nicole

Hat-tip to our friends over at Green Antilles for the heads-up on this good article re-posted here from IPS News: 

Working to Cope with Climate Change, Jamaica Calculates Costs By Zadie Neufville KINGSTON, April 8, 2012 (IPS) -
Jamaican authorities are aiming to transform an island that experts say faces one of the worst climate risks in the world into a nation "equipped to prepare for and respond to the negative impacts of climate change". 

Vision 2030, the National Development Plan, offers strategies to simplify climate change adaptation, merging its principles with both development and local policy frameworks. Charting a course from 2010 to 2030, the plan aims for "a strong and stable economic foundation". 

Extreme events have had a significant impact on Jamaica's economy, environment and people. Five major storm events between 2004 and 2008 reportedly caused 1.2 billion U.S. dollars in losses and damage. 

Industries that suffer the brunt of each impact include agriculture, which reportedly employs 180,000 people; tourism, employing about 106,000; and fisheries, employing 100,000. 

Economists agree that in addition to exposing the country's lack of resources, adaptation planning has uncovered vulnerabilities in the financial sector. They also point to the need for sustainable financing for adaptation and risk reduction strategies – Jamaica's adaptation is being funded by grants, loans and donations from international bodies. 

Private sector risks:
 The burden of equipping Jamaica to adapt to the impact of climate change does not fall solely on the government. The private sector is also being urged to pay attention to areas where it is vulnerable. Insurance companies, for example, face risks that could cripple the financial sector, environmental economist Maurice Mason said. "Lack of adequate re- insurance means the financial sector is highly exposed," he warned. The economist noted that because businesses are grounded in stock returns, they seem to have overlooked the long-term planning necessary for climate change adaptation. In 2004, Dyoll Insurance Company collapsed after it amassed huge losses resulting from Hurricane Ivan's devastation of several countries and the Cayman Islands. Delayed compensation payments on crop insurance also drove many farmers out of business and hurt agro- processing companies. "With increased intensities and frequencies of hurricanes and storms predicted, the implications for loss are great for local insurers and their re- insurers," Mason concluded. 

"Adequate re-insurance options for local insurers and a reassessment of the triggers and parameters used" by the Caribbean Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF), which provides risk insurance for Caribbean governments to cover damages from natural events, are needed, said environmental economist Maurice Mason. 

Vision 2030 is built into Jamaica's second national communication to the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (UNCCC). Central to Vision 2030 are a national energy plan, plans for other sectors and a still incomplete climate change adaptation plan. 

 "Achieving a healthy natural environment" is one of the plan's four goals, as the vulnerable island is heavily reliant on natural resources. The plan's 15 outcomes incorporate the related themes of climate change and disaster risk reduction, tourism, manufacturing, environmental protection and sustainable planning. 

In drafting Vision 2030, the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) sought input from Jamaicans from all walks of life. "If our ecosystem development does not allow people to live, they will work to destroy it," said PIOJ head Gladstone Hutchinson. 

Pointing to the necessity of a "strong focus" on improved environmental management, he noted, "dysfunction in any of these spheres will impact Vision 2030". 

 No place left untouched 

At risk are Kingston's commercial district and its service infrastructure, the historical town of Port Royal and the Norman Manley International Airport. Portmore, a settlement of more than 250,000 people, Jamaica's fastest growing town of Old Harbour Bay and the famous Negril are also threatened.

 Scientists at the Geo-Informatics Institute of the University of the West Indies predict sea level rise of a minimum two to three millimetres per year during the first half of this century. Such levels could affect an estimated 102 square kilometres in some of the most densely populated coastal areas. 

A one to two metre rise, the UWI study speculated, would devastate low-lying coastal areas and key installations, including major power generation facilities, the oil refinery, airports and seaports. It would also have a serious impact on the natural protection of the Kingston harbour. 

High engineering costs means there must be focus on improving access roads and shoring up the capability of response agencies, Mason, who works at the Disaster Risk Reduction Centre at the University of the West Indies, told IPS. 

"Where climate change is concerned, everything up to 10 meters is vulnerable. That will put all our critical facilities at risk, our transhipment port in Kingston, both major airports and the north coast - that is effectively 70 percent of our GDP," he said in a telephone interview. 

Protecting Jamaica from sea level rise will cost approximately 532 million U.S. dollars, using a 1992 estimated cost of 197 U.S. dollars per person, and even without estimating the impact on natural resources, costs have begun to add up. 

Raising about four kilometres of Palisadoes Road by just over three metres above sea level is estimated to cost 65.7 million dollars. The road links the airport and the town of Port Royal to the rest of the island. Recently, it has been blocked due to storm surges, marooning the historic town and airport. But experts also point to the need for reengineering works on roadways such as the main route from Kingston to the south coast. The main escape route for Portmore and other vulnerable communities, it becomes impassable during bad weather, and alternative routes are also prone to flooding and landslides. 

The U.N. Adaption Fund has approved funding for the construction of protective structures to halt the erosion of the world famous Negril Beach, a project with a 25 million dollar price tag. Experts estimate one to two metres of the beach is eroded each year. In 2010, the popular destination reportedly brought in a quarter of the island's 2 billion dollars in tourism earnings. 

Deploying natural resources 

PIOJ's Mary Gooden outlined adaptation strategies that include identifying alternative employment for communities where human activities are hurting forests and wetlands. "We have to teach them to protect the environment while living in it," she said noting that individuals are being helped to develop plans and proposals as well as access start-up funding. 

The Forestry Department has replanted more than 300,000 hectares of forests in degraded upper watershed areas to reduce run-off, erosion and silting of waterways. The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) is restoring natural coastal defences by replanting mangrove trees in some of the island's most vulnerable communities. Mangroves absorb wave energy, thereby reducing impact on the land. They are also a source of fuel wood, animal feed and sticks to build fish pots. 

Vision 2030 places high priority on alternative sources of energy to mitigate climate change. Most of the island's energy generation facilities and supporting services lie within a 10-metre vulnerability zone. The energy plan hinges on the state-owned Wigton Wind Farm in central Jamaica. The facility has helped reduce Jamaica's oil purchasing, which topped 1.48 billion U.S. dollars between January and June 2011. The plan aims to reduce the amount of electricity generated from imported petroleum from 95 percent to 30 percent by 2030, with 15 percent from renewable energy by 2020. 

In order to lessen the impact of floods and droughts, artificial water recharge mechanisms that return excess water to natural underground storage systems are also being installed, as are rainwater catchment systems. Additional weather stations are also being set up to provide valuable data on rainfall and temperature.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Seeds of Light is building an Orphan Center in South Africa

I'm pleased to be supporting Seeds of Light as they embark on their biggest project yet: the building of an orphan center that will support hundreds of AIDS orphans in South Africa. From the Seeds of Light website:
Our approach is twofold. We take action with practical projects to support and uplift impoverished and marginalized communities such as : providing access to clean water; creating food gardens; improving overall health of AIDS orphans and vulnerable children; and preserving endangered species and ecosystems. We also offer a range of trainings to enhance life-skills.

Watch the latest update:
From the latest newsletter:

Several months ago we announced our plans to help build an orphan center, Ekurhuleni Center for Orphans and Vulnerable Children ("Place of Peace"), Seeds of Light's biggest project ever! The Center will feed and care for 300-500 AIDS orphans daily, and eventually will house some of the neediest of those children. In December, we were offered a matching grant from a U.S. foundation, and we are thrilled to say that we raised the full $45,000 match for the grant! Thank you for making that possible! Since we last wrote to you, there has been another very exciting development. The Foundation who sponsored the matching grant in November offered us an additional matching grant of $72,000. This means if we raise the full match, we will have a total of $145,000 needed to finish Phase 1 of the Orphan Center! Will you please help with a one-time donation or a monthly donation? Or would you be willing to organize a fundraiser of some kind--garage sale, bake sale, raffle, etc.?   

To get involved or join in supporting this great cause, please visit the Seeds of Light website.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day and to celebrate, I am donating to Planned Parenthood. Why? Because I am sick of the war on women that is being waged by a misogynist group of men who control far too much power. Enough. It is time for women to rise up. Who thought that in 2012 we'd hear issues of contraception and access to women's reproductive health become things to debate? The GOP and their supporters are trying to revert back to a time when women did not have control over their bodies. Read this and this for context and background if you have not been following this news. So I urge my sisters to take action, support Planned Parenthood, let's ensure that we continue to have the right to make decisions for our own health.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Are we prepared to lose all of our forests? "Climate Change & Bark Beetles = Billions of Dead Trees"

Happy 2012! My graduate studies are filling most hours of every day, leaving little time for me to focus on anything else. The following guest column by Dr. Reese Halter appeared in the Palo Alto Daily News Weekend on Saturday January 7, 2012. I am re-posting because Dr. Halter cogently presents for us the sobering predicament that we are in regarding climate change and the future of life on this planet as we know it. Are we prepared for what he is saying here? Do people care that there may not be a habitable planet for their great-grandchildren? Is anyone listening? Or is all the evidence being drowned out by the climate change deniers and their paymasters and henchmen who control the fossil fuel industry. . . Let us hope that 2012 is the year that that the scales are finally tipped, once and for all, in favor of saving the planet . . . 

"Climate Change and Bark Beetles equal Billions of Dead Trees" by Dr. Reese Halter:

Recently, one of my colleagues sent me a story that sums up the media's apathetic appetite for covering the environment. It is perplexing and disturbing. 

The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, despite the rhetoric from every GOP candidate. 

Climate change dropped further from the world headlines in 2011 compared to the previous year, even though a vicious one-in-100-year drought in Texas has entered its second year; 70 percent of Mexico is enveloped by its worst drought in 70 years; Australia faced epic flooding costing taxpayers in excess of $5 billion in infrastructure costs; and plants are so confused in their biorhythmic cycles that the white petals of snow drops, normally a spring flower, are now unfurling in the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. 

Clearly, nature is showing climatologists, ecologists, physiologists and oceanographers that the web of life is being brutally dismantled by rising greenhouse gases. Humans are exceptional problem-solvers, so why has the media chosen not to focus on positive solutions? After all, Americans have the highest concentration of brainpower in our colleges compared to any other nation on the globe.

For those who do not believe that anything is going on, walk, ride or fly anywhere across western North America and you'll see vast amounts of dead trees. In the past 40 years across the West, temperatures have risen on average in excess of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Advertisement Although this number appears to be small it has effectively removed nature's ecological cold curtain, enabling mountain pine beetles an opportunity to speed up their life cycle, invade and decimate high-elevation pine forests across the continent. 

Instead of absorbing carbon dioxide, billions of beetle-killed trees across the West are decaying and stoking the ever-rising pool of greenhouse gases. 

Death rates of Whitebark and Limber pines across the western U.S. are as high as 90 percent. The sentinels of the high country have become the tsunami sirens of global warming, showing scientists that a warming world is irrevocably altering the landscape across the entire mountainous region of western North America. 

It's not just the forests that are disappearing, but also immense amounts of ice that reflect incoming solar radiation. One hundred billion tons of ice melted from Greenland during the blistering warm summer of 2010. This year alone, 50 percent of Canada's millennia-old Arctic ice shelves along the coast of Elsmere Island vanished. 

And far worse, the Southern Ocean, which occupies 22 percent of the total ocean on the globe absorbing 40 percent of Earth's CO2, is acidifying so quickly that by 2030 the sea water will be corrosive to crustaceans, dissolving shells that the animals are making. This amplification will reverberate all the way up the food chain to the whales. 

Data from the Global Carbon Project showed the carbon emissions from our planet had increased 5.9 percent between 2009-2010 -- the largest jump in any year since the Industrial Revolution.

The $17 trillion Albertan oil sands must spend carbon energy and precious fresh water to separate the gooey, toxic oil from the sand. Moreover, by burning this petroleum humans will knowingly raise atmospheric CO2 levels by an astounding 150 ppm. Earth will be uninhabitable for life as we know it. 

If Australia, with its $10 trillion coke-coal industry, can ratify a carbon tax, then surely we in America can set a low-carbon standard that China and India will follow. 

We are running out of time to combat rising CO2 emissions: Earth's forests are dying. 

It's time to embrace innovation and the dictum of cofounder of the London School of Economics, George Bernard Shaw: "Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything." 
Reese Halter is a conservation biologist at Cal Lutheran University, public speaker and founder of the international conservation institute Global Forest Science. Follow him at