Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Killing Fields of Ivory -- Infographic

Here's another infographic from visual.ly that spells out the brutal, destructive and lucrative trade of poaching for ivory. The infographic focuses on elephants but poaching of rhinos is equally alarming. (A zoomed view is here.)

The Killing fields of Ivory
by memuco. Learn about infographic design.

How we're endangering species -- infographic

There's lots of cool stuff over at visual.ly to help us picture the world around us.

Here's a great infographic that summarizes the human impact on the environment and species. Overall: ouch!
(Unfortunately, the ones shown below are the marquee species... many less glamorous species are also suffering.)
How We're Endangering Species
by NatGeo.Browse more data visualization.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Future isn't What it Used to Be

Quote of the Day: "For every species other than humans, the biggest environmental issue on Earth is Humanity." This is from Rex Weyler of Greenpeace, who recently wrote a column called "Nature: A System of Systems" where he argues for a systems approach to nature because our present piecemeal approach isn't working. We now have more environmental groups but fewer forests, more national parks but fewer species. The once promised bountiful future has been usurped by glimpses of environmental catastrophe. Unfortunately, we have the same attitude to nature -- that it's unlimited and inexhaustible -- as those who hunted the passenger pigeon, Carolina parakeet and Great Auk to death. Nature is less a resource and more a treasure that is slipping through our fingers. As Camilo Mora and Peter Sale point out in their recent article on global biodiversity loss, we're not going to "save nature" with more protected areas; instead, we need broad systems-based thinking that addresses poverty, overpopulation, overconsumption, unfair taxation, and ruinous subsidies. We need to get green groups together to synergize their message and help raise awareness that carbon dioxide emissions aren't our only problem. 

To that end, one wonders if we should be putting a price on nature, as Richard Conniff argues in Yale360. This has been a popular idea in economic circles for some time. Perhaps if we understood the enormous value we get from ecosystem services we would start to pay attention to what we are losing. But perhaps this will make nature subject to negotiation, that if we only save half the wetland, we can still have our tax cut, or if we only protect part of the forest, we can still enjoy certain subsidies. Conniff points out that we're asking the wrong questions. It's not
“Why do species matter?” but “Is food important to you?” or “Do you want your children to have effective medicines when they get sick?” or even “Do you like to breathe?” None of these questions overstates the importance of species.
It's this sort of straight talk that we need to see what kind of future we can have versus the sort of future we're going to get with business as usual. What after all, is the value of a walk in the woods?

Meanwhile, Robert Jensen at Truth-Out, in his article, "From Start to Finish: Why we won and how we are losing" puts it in plain terms that business as usual is causing global depletion. This is the subject of Michael T. Klare's book "The Race for What's Left: The Global Scramble for the World's Last Resources (New York: Metropolitan, 2012), which is reviewed by Jensen along with two other books. The cheap, easily accessible oil has been vaporized by our cars and planes and now we're onto the dirtier tar sands oil, and the inaccessible oil off the continental shelves and in the Arctic. Next to go are the rare minerals, mined out of rainforests and natural landscapes to feed our industrial juggernaut. Jensen makes the point that we're not going to invent our way out of the crisis. Indeed, some of our previous standbys, like "Necessity is the mother of invention" are going to have to be jettisoned if the transition to this new, environmentally impoverished world is going to be, well, manageable, if not catastrophic. It's not about changing our tools, but about changing our values. Valuing the future requires us to look beyond short-term gratification of consumption and see the beauty of the natural world and the species we share the planet with. We're good at taking care of ourselves and our needs. Now we have to start taking care of the planet -- and our future.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Top Ten Blog Posts

We reached a milestone last week -- 10,000 page views since our inception! (And that doesn't include an additional 6000 page views for the blog when it was formerly known as "Ecolympics".) Thanks for reading. To celebrate, I thought I'd highlight the top ten posts that are getting the most hits.

1. Environmental Cartoons I: Crisis? What Crisis? -- most people find Eco-Now by searching for the Supertramp album, "Crisis? What Crisis?" whose cover was featured in this post.

2. Portraits of Endangered Animals -- I'm a big fan of Joel Sartore and his work is highlighted here.

3. Endangered Species at the North and South Poles: The Eco-Art of Xavier Cortada  -- Now that I found out about the terrific work of Miami eco-artist, Xavier Cortada, I'm a big fan of his work too. See also his Eco-Now interview, which just missed the top ten.

4. Six Great Environmental Protest Songs -- I tried to find some that weren't on everyone else's list.

5. What is Shark Finning? -- simply, it's a brutal, inhumane practice that is decimating worldwide shark populations, all for a supposed delicacy.

6. The Endangered Species Print Project -- great conservation-art project by Jenny Kendler and Molly Schafer of Chicago.

7. The Lost Bird Project -- "Forgetting is another kind of extinction," says Todd McGrain, whose work to commemorate extinct birds with larger-than life sculptures is profiled in the eponymous film (reviewed here). See also the thoughtful interview he gave.

8. Thoughts on World Population Day -- can natural resources keep up with our growing population? No.

9. How Water Chestnuts are Taking over the Northeast: A Photo-essay -- invasive species like water chestnuts are becoming a problem in ecosystems everywhere.

10. Living in an Age of Extinction: Building a Life Cairn -- Why do no church bells ring when animals go extinct? Why, indeed. Read the interview with Andreas Kornevall about the great project in East Sussex to commemorate extinct species.

Please share this post or any other post you found provocative. We need to raise awareness that we humans are part of the tree of life and the high extinction rates now seen, due to habitat destruction, pollution, over-exploitation, invasive species and climate change mean that we are failing in our role as stewards. We now know of more than 2000 other planets in the galaxy, but none of them are known to have life. It's our planet, and biodiversity is our life: we need to take care of it.