Today, in a bit of a departure, I’ll be posting four news items together that, while seemingly disparate, all belong to a certain narrative for me. I try to stay positive, for the most part, about the options and solutions to environmental challenges, but I hope readers will understand that we all need the occasional day off now and then. And here we go.
According to a well-publicized new study, unless immediate action is undertaken to mitigate climate change, we stand to lose up to approximately half of all animal and plant species by the year 2080. This is not future science – this is within the lifetimes of people who are living today. It’s important to note that the species in question are not only those currently considered endangered – this study is about all species, including ones we consider common and unthreatened today.
From the LiveScience article:
“It’s not too late to do something to prevent the widespread loss of species, however. The study found that if emissions are slowed and ultimately begin being reduced by 2017, about 60 percent of the losses can be avoided, Warren said. If emissions peak in 2030 and are reduced after that, about 40 percent of the losses could be avoided.
A decline in plants and animals means a decline in the services these organisms provide, such as recycling of nutrients, purification of air and water, pollination, as well as draws for ecotourism and recreation, she added.”
The once common Northern Bald Ibis (Geronticus eremita), which ranged across Europe, northern Africa and the Middle East, has been endangered for some time now. It is one of the only non-wading kinds of ibis, preferring steppes and fields over wetlands. There were four remaining birds left in Syria – that number is now down to one sole individual. ‘Zenobia’, the last Syrian female to return from the annual migration to Ethiopia, was spotted at the Palmyra breeding site this year.
Reasons for the decline are not clear, and researchers have attempted to monitor the birds in spite of the ongoing conflict in Syria.
The ibis was considered to be one of the first birds released by Noah off the Ark as a symbol of fertility, and in ancient Egypt the bird symbolized excellence, glory, honour, and virtue, as well as the signifier of the soul. This is what it looks like when an animal, common into the 20th century (although extinct in Europe for some time) finally reaches the end of the line. It will likely be up to zoo breeding programs to keep this species extant on the planet.
A strange hunting free-for-all seems to have occurred in Australia’s state of Victoria over the past weekend. An estimated 50-150 duck ‘hunters’ entered a private wetland area and apparently shot anything with wings that moved – including hundreds of endangered birds. Most of the birds, legal and illegal alike, were left behind. I admit that I have nothing against legitimate and legal hunting – it’s what humans have been doing for a very long time. But playing video game shooting with live animals as targets and leaving the dead and dying behind is not hunting, it is a strange kind of violent self-indulgence.
After long consultations with a number of hunting groups, Victoria recently reassigned the administration and compliance of duck hunting season from Department of Sustainability and Environment to the newly created, pro-hunt Game Victoria. In the case of this hunt, Game Victoria was monitoring a different area entirely for anti-hunt protesters, rather than following up on a tip that large numbers of reckless shooters were likely to show up at the Box Flat wetland site.
It matters who we allow to run the administration of wildlife areas. And if those authorities are working at cross-purposes with conservation authorities, a single day can wipe out years of conservation efforts, not to mention financial investment in wildlife protection.
The UK government under David Cameron has appointed a well-known climate change skeptic and former oil company executive, Peter Lilley, to advise the Prime Minister on key foreign policy issues. According to The Guardian, “he will be present at meetings of the prime minister’s new policy board at which such issues are discussed. The government is also involved in crucial United Nations international negotiations aimed at forging a new global agreement on cutting emissions, and equally vital discussions on the future of EU energy policy, to be decided in the next year.”
Mr. Lilley doesn’t disagree with the basic science behind the concept of global warming, rather he is skeptical of the actual impact of global warming itself and the necessity for immediate mitigation action. He has numerous supporters, both in and outside of the government.
When the leadership of an influential and industrial nation like the United Kingdom chooses a climate change skeptic as a key advisor on international issues, it is important news that bears watching.
Now ending my Blue Monday.
Thanks for bearing with me.
Nature Climate Change study – Quantifying the benefit of early climate change mitigation in avoiding biodiversity loss by R. Warren, J. VanDerWal, J. Price, J. A. Welbergen, I. Atkinson, J. Ramirez-Villegas, T. J. Osborn, A. Jarvis, L. P. Shoo, S. E. Williams & J. Lowe
LiveScience article – On the Brink: Climate Change Endangers Common Species by Douglas Main
The Age article – Hunter warned of bird massacre by Melissa Fyfe
Conservation group to save the Northern Bald Ibis in Morocco
The Guardian article – Climate change sceptic to advise David Cameron on foreign policy by Fiona Harvey
Thanks to Rob Cairns (Twitter: @robbiepoet) for the duck-hunting story.