Archive for February 2019 | Monthly archive page

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Under the Sea this World Wildlife Day

By Macy Placide, Protect Our Species Campaign Manager, Earth Day Network

On March 3, people around the globe will celebrate World Wildlife Day. The day focuses on the world’s wild animals and plants, while taking stock of Earth’s biodiversity. It is a significant day dedicated to nonhuman life forms and provides an opportunity to amplify nature’s voice.

This year’s World Wildlife Day theme, “Life below water: for people and planet”, aims to raise awareness of the incredibly rich and diverse array of marine life and the critical role that marine resources play in our lives, and the lives of others across the world, each day. This is a fitting and critical theme to address, given the current threats facing our oceans and marine species. Climate change, pollution, habitat loss, overexploitation, and illegal fishing are major drivers that are destroying ocean life and putting delicate marine ecosystems at risk of a tipping point.

Wildlife Crime

This year’s theme reflects the intimate connection between people and the planet, especially our dependence on a healthy ocean ecosystem. Yet, as we endeavor to safeguard and preserve these systems, human influence has caused significant, and potentially irreversible, damage that is leaving our seas in a state of impotent decline. Human exploitation is directly responsible for the leading causes of marine species demise. From coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific to sharks on the high seas, there is no corner of the ocean that human activity has not impacted.

Human appetites have put tremendous pressure on fishing populations. A whopping 90 percent of global fish stocks are exploited to meet growing demand and growing populations, creating big problems for the future of global food security and the security of life in the ocean.

Various criminal activities are also pushing fish and other marine species closer to the brink of extinction. The vaquita is one species caught in the crossfires of crime. Spanish for “little cow,” this harmless porpoise is one of the world’s rarest marine mammals found only in the Sea of Cortez. However, due to the illegal methods used to catch the totoaba, a unique type of fish caught for its swim bladders that are a popular delicacy in parts of Asia, vaquita porpoises end up snared and killed by ghost nets meant for totoabas. With only a dozen vaquitas left, efforts to prevent the animal from vanishing Earth have not been successful. For a greater look at what’s going on behind this sad story, check out this interview and harrowing new documentary about the vaquita that won the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

Stories like the vaquitas reflect the devastating reality of the illicit activities that plague our oceans. Yet, the perpetrators involved also have direct links to other nefarious crimes, including drugs, arms and human trafficking. On land, other wildlife crimes, including elephant and rhino poaching, also have significant ties to corruption that fuels transnational organized crime and terrorist organizations like al-Shabaab and the Lord’s Resistance Army.

The Dark Side of Technology

If it seems things can’t get worse, advances in technology have propagated the growth and acceleration of wildlife crime across numerous platforms, including the internet, smartphone apps, and social media. Technology and globalization have made it easier than ever to commit, and get away with, dark and illegal activities at unbreakable speed. From online sales of wildlife and fish products, to advertising live endangered species as pets through the illegal pet trade, it has become increasingly challenging to turn the tide against wildlife crimes.

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a talk from the founder and director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime, and Corruption Center (TraCC), Dr. Louise Shelley. During her talk, she shared a glimpse of her new book, “Dark Commerce: How a New Illicit Economy Is Threatening Our Future.” It examines the complex and hidden presence of many illegal online markets, including wildlife crime, and  affirms that the business of dark commerce on the web undermines the safety and security of the global community. The event offered a sobering look at the “dirty side” of the internet and offerred ways in which the global community can respond to the challenges in this space. You can find more information about the book here.

A Future for Wildlife

Whether its crimes on the web, in the ocean or on land, there is not a “one size fits all” approach to tackling the daunting, and often tragic, realities that face wildlife each day. Yet as dark as these times may seem, with so many other issues our world faces, there are unprecedented efforts and initiatives to fight and win the war against wildlife crime.

World Wildlife Day offers an opportunity for you to be a voice for animals! There are so many ways to get involved and there are events taking place all over the world. For those in the District, you can join Preserving American Wildlife in celebrating the day by attending their rally, which includes a host of distinguished speakers and educational activities. If there is one thing you can do this year, speak up and defend a future for all wildlife!

Macy Placide is a graduate from the School of International Service at American University, where she received her Master’s degree in Global Environmental Policy.  She recently started working for the Earth Day Network as their Protect Our Species Campaign Manager.

Photo Credits: Pic 1 Henry Burrows CC BY-SA 2.0; Pic 2 Paula Olson, NOAA, public domain; Pic 3 Remko van Dokkum CC BY 2.0

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Environmentally Conscious Dating for Washingtonian Women

By Brenna Rivett, Dating in the District blog author

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to talk about dating. I thought I’d share tips for environmentally conscious dating in Washington, D.C. from someone who loves Dating in the District.

While many of us incorporate environmentally friendly practices into our daily routines – think recycling, using reusable shopping bags, and turning the water off while we brush our teeth, I’ve decided to take it a step further. When thinking about how I could reduce my carbon footprint in my social life, I realized that I spent a big part of it online dating! So, here are some suggestions – all tried by yours truly – for fun, environmentally conscious dates.

Skip the Lyft ride and take public transportation to the date. While it’s tempting to take those extra 15 minutes to get ready and call a Lyft, I’ve found that taking public transportation to my dates is a lot easier (and cheaper!) than taking a Lyft. In cases where I take the bus and arrive early, I’ve taken the opportunity to walk around the neighborhood a bit and check out the side streets. Last fall, while walking around Shaw before my date, I stumbled upon a stationary store that took my colored pen obsession to a whole new level. Totally worth giving up those extra 10 minutes of prep time to catch the 92!

Pick a location that actively promotes or supports environmental work or research.  True environmental science nerd that I am, I love wandering through the Natural History museum and I’ve found it’s a good date spot! If the conversation doesn’t flow naturally, there are plenty of conversation starters throughout the exhibits. Some of my other favorite locations are the National Arboretum, Teddy Roosevelt Island, the Botanical Gardens, and Up Top Acres.

Choose a local distillery or brewery. Did you know that 25 percent of a food’s carbon footprint comes from transporting it to its final destination? By choosing a brewery or distillery in D.C., you’re eliminating that part of the drink’s carbon, and supporting local businesses in the process! Some of my favorite spots with a good, casual vibe for a date include Right Proper Brewpub, Cotton and Reed rum distillery, and Atlas Brew Works.

Take advantage of D.C.’s farmer’s markets and stay in and cook. Whether you love to cook and want to master Julia Child’s Coq au Vin or just want to dabble and stick with pasta and homemade sauce, you can shop local, save money, and reduce your carbon footprint.

This shift to environmentally conscious dating may also bring some great conversations. I’ve found that by actively thinking about reducing my carbon footprint before my dates, I’m more likely to bring it up with my dates. It turns out that this is a great way to see if my date shares my environmental passion, or at least see if they are interested in learning more about why I care so much. Of course, this may lead to your date “mansplaining” climate change, like what happened to me, but hey, you can’t win them all!

Have fun on your next environmentally conscious date!

Brenna Rivett is the author of the blog Dating in the District: One Girl’s Search for Love, Rooftop Bars, and the Perfect Saison. Brenna enjoys finding the humor in these sometimes painfully awkward online dating situations and writing about them, in the hope that other people connect with and enjoy them too.

Photos by Brenna Rivett

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Three Names to Remember this Black History Month

By Kyaira Ware, Community Conservation Manager at Potomac Conservancy

During Black History Month, we honor the vast and diverse spectrum of black experiences, perspectives, and cultures that exist throughout the world.

Environmentalists pay homage to greats such as Harriet Tubman, political activist and expert navigator of the forest, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights leader and early advocate of the environmental justice movement.

While Tubman and King have been justly revered as some of the greatest activists of our time, there are countless other lesser-known black leaders whose significant contributions to the environmental movement have been largely forgotten.

This Black History Month, take some time to learn about black individuals who’ve influenced and advanced the movement. Scroll down to read more.

Ota Benga

Ota Benga’s legacy serves as a painful, yet necessary, reminder of the long history of racism and injustice within the conservation movement.

Benga was only 21 years old when his wife, two children, and other tribe members were killed during a raid by a police force under King Leopold II of Belgium in 1904. Benga was eventually captured, sold into slavery, and later purchased by Samuel Phillips Verner, a missionary and explorer from South Carolina, for a “pound of salt and a bolt of cloth.”

After traveling the Congo and appearing as the premier exhibit at the Saint Louis World’s Fair, Verner temporarily housed Benga in the Bronx Zoo as the newest addition to the zoo’s primate house. Each afternoon, spectators awaited to watch Benga share a cage with an orangutan, chimpanzees, and a parrot. The exhibition became the zoo’s most popular and controversial attraction. In September 1906, nearly after its opening, the exhibit was closed due to extreme backlash from the public.

Following the exhibition’s closing, Benga was invited to Lynchburg, Virginia to attend seminary school. After failing to assimilate into his new life and “becoming increasingly hopeless about his future,” Benga committed suicide on March 20, 1916.

While Benga suffered immensely throughout his entire life, learning about Benga’s story affords us the opportunity to remember our past, so we may do better for our future.

Matthew Henson

Matthew Henson’s legacy serves as a source of empowerment for people of color who do not always see themselves represented in the environmental movement.

Born on August 8, 1866, Henson became an orphan at a young age. He spent his early childhood working as a cabin boy on a ship, traveling the world to trading hotspots such as Africa, China, and Russia. Through the instruction of the ship’s captain, he also learned to read and write.

Upon moving to Washington, D.C., Henson became a store clerk before meeting Robert Peary, an American Navy officer and explorer. Peary initially hired Henson as a valet. However, Henson’s experience and navigation expertise soon proved to be far too valuable. He eventually became Peary’s most trusted accomplice on epic voyages across the world. Among many expeditions, the dynamic duo traveled to Greenland. It was also reported, although never confirmed, that they were the first people to reach the North Pole in 1909.

Perry largely overshadowed Henson’s accomplishments. But in 2000, the National Geographic Society posthumously awarded Henson the Hubbard Medal. His experience as an expert explorer continues to inspire people of color to become environmentalists.

Buffalo Soldiers

The “buffalo soldiers” remind us of the early role that African American men played in protecting America’s greatest treasures.

After the Civil War in 1866, Congress passed the Army Organization Act, which created six African-American army regiments. From there, the “buffalo soldiers” were born. While these soldiers are mainly known for their time spent scouting and patrolling the vast terrain of western states and territories, many people don’t understand the extent of their contributions to national parks. As some of the earliest park rangers, they handled everything “from evicting poachers and timber thieves to extinguishing forest fires” throughout great national parks such as Yosemite.

While their accomplishments as top-performing Calvary regiments and expert forest men were not always appreciated during their lifetimes, today we appreciate their service, sacrifice and position in the history of environmentalism.

Kyaira Ware is the current Community Conservation Manager at Potomac Conservancy. She is passionate about connecting urban communities to environmental sustainability and looks forward to the day when we can all agree that climate change is real.

Photo Credits: carmichaellibrary CC BY 2.0; public domain