Jazz Festival

IMG_4627Every year my city puts on a fantastic Jazz Festival.  This year the event lasts nine days and I went downtown for day 1.  The headliner was Joss Stone, a singer/songwriter I’ve long admired.  I remember “Soul Sessions” blowing me away at her vocal talent.  But, she continued to impress me by doing projects that she was interested in, even if it did not make the big bucks.  She has dabbled in reggae, blues, jazz, soul…

She also has a passion like I do for elephants, visiting the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the GRI Elephant Orphan Project.

Anyhow, Rochester’s Jazz Festival also has some terrific free performances, so if you’re in the Western NY area, check it out.

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Photos: my photos of Rochester Jazz Fest – yes, I was far away, but Joss Stone sounded great!

 

 

 

Snow Leopard Trust

My local zoo is finally expanding the area for their snow leopards; their previous enclosure always broke my heart a bit.  Snow leopards, like elephants, are struggling in the wild with climate change, poaching, and human/animal conflicts.  There are only between 4000-6000 wild snow leopards in the world today.

The Snow Leopard Trust has been instrumental in saving the snow leopard.  One of their projects includes providing livestock insurance – herders who wish to receive compensation for lost livestock must protect snow leopards.  Another provides income to women by purchasing their handicrafts and selling them through the Trust all over the world.  They also create eco-camps and nature clubs for children to  learn about conservation, and run adult educational seminars on a regular basis.

 

 

Jared Leto’s World Wildlife appeal

I got an email from actor Jared Leto.  Not a personal email, although he used my name.  Rather, he is an ambassador for the World Wildlife Fund, and they are currently running a fundraising campaign to save Asian elephants in Myanmar.

Last week I posted about the current crisis in Myanmar, and how poachers are now selling elephant skin as “medicine”, even though there is no real scientific evidence that elephant skin has any benefit for human health.

Jared writes:

Elephant poaching rates since January have already surpassed the annual average for Myanmar—this is truly a crisis. Most of the poaching is happening in two areas: Bago Yoma and Ayeyarwady Delta, where poachers can gain easy access. At this rate, wild Asian elephants could vanish from these areas in just one or two years…

WWF has an emergency action plan to stop the poaching. With your support, WWF will train, equip and deploy 10 anti-poaching teams to the most vulnerable areas, and implement a thorough plan to stop the slaughter.

So far, the campaign has raised $80,000.  The goal is $230,000, so if you’re looking for a good cause for donatations, please consider this!

Toronto

IMG_5977I had a lovely trip to Toronto over the weekend.  If you are planning on going to Toronto anytime in the next month, I highly recommend the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit at the Art Museum of Ontario.  The entire museum is stellar, and well worth the steep admission fee.

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I also visited Casa Loma, a short drive or subway ride from the city center.  The building itself is massive, but I wasn’t too inspired by the interior.  There are certainly nice elements in the decor, but nothing I plan on remembering well.

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The views from the Casa Loma tower, though, are wonderful, and the gardens are very nice too.

IMG_5980I would suggest finding some good food at the Kensington Market area, where there are plenty of coffee shops, bars, cafes, and open air food stalls.

The area certainly tries to be counter-culture, but it seems everybody (tourists included) mosey around to find good eats.

I ended up enjoying the ethnic neighborhoods more.  Chinatown, Little Italy, and Little Portugal were some areas I visited.  Little Portugal is mostly residential, and ended up being my favorite.  Lots of little gardens, interesting houses, Portuguese bakeries, and it is fun to hear many speak the language.

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Previously while in Toronto, I focused on the harbor area visiting sites like the CN Tower, attending a Blue Jays game, and walking around Centre Island.

I’m already looking forward to another trip to this city to explore additional areas.

(Photos: taken in Toronto)

Elephants likely to be protected in NY

There is a bipartisan effort in New York to ban elephant entertainment. It passed the legislature and is now on the Governor’s desk for review.

Thanks to efforts by Pace University students to educate their representatives about animal cruelty, New York may become the first state to protect elephants by law.

From USA Today:

The bill, called the “Elephant Protection Act,” allows the state Department of Agriculture and Markets to assess a fine of up $1,000 for every violation of the law when an elephant is used for performances.

The bill doesn’t apply to accredited zoos, aquariums or wildlife sanctuaries.

Cuomo’s office said it is reviewing the bill. If signed, the law would take effect within two years.

Myanmar elephant deaths rise

From The Guardian:

“Reported cases of killed elephants in Myanmar have increased dramatically since 2010, with a total of 112 wild elephant deaths, most of them in the past few years. In 2015 alone, 36 wild elephants were killed, according to official figures from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The figures for 2016 are feared to be even worse.”

Myanmar, a poor country with plenty of government crises, has not devoted time and money to invest consistently in conservation.  Although they did stop logging operations in 2014, they have been unsuccessful in protecting wildlife such as elephants from poachers.

With China banning the ivory trade, Myanmar has become a popular spot for Chinese to go to buy ivory and other elephant products such as the teeth, skin, and the penis.  Most of these parts are used for “medicinal” purposes, although there is no solid scientific evidence rhino, elephant, or tiger parts really help treat illnesses.  Any relief the patient feels after ingesting or rubbing such ointments onto the skin is likely only an expensive placebo effect that harms the environment.

Myanmar unfortunately has become a country where African elephant parts go to the market too.  Groups such as TRAFFIC are trying to strengthen Myanmar border patrols to stop illegal wildlife trading.

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Photo: taken at Elephant Nature Park

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USA pulls out of climate agreement

Selfish and ignorant.  Those were my first thoughts when I found out the USA has pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord.

The agreement was not perfect, but what on a such a massive scale could ever be deemed perfect?  It was inspiring to see the world come together with goals to help our planet.  195 countries, to be exact.

We all share this planet, after all.  We all breathe this air, and we all drink this water.  We all seek shelter from storms.

Supporters of the President will say the agreement was economically unfair to the USA and now the USA can be free to pursue it’s own goals.

But now, we join Syria and Nicaragua as the countries who are the outsiders on this issue.

We have willingly turned our back on diplomacy.

If worst comes to worst, we may have turned our back on the basic health and security of our children and grandchildren.

If worst comes to worst, this will be the defining moment when we have decided to condemn the entire world to higher temperatures, bigger droughts, rising seas, severe storms, migration, conflict, disease and starvation.

The USA is currently the #2 polluter in the world.  If our industries become unregulated, our levels of pollution likely rise in the name of short term profit while creating great long term harm.

Even if the US impact is small, it can push the most vulnerable countries underwater – such as the Maldives (population 325,000), Seychelles (87,000), Kiribati (102,000), and the Solomon Islands (585,000).

We must hope that despite not being part of the agreement, our industries will continue to invest in new technologies and try to find cleaner and safer ways to create energy.

We must speak out and support those who do what is good and right for the environment and criticize and hold accountable those that do not.

We must support science.

We must support one another.  This is our planet.  We share it with billions of humans, animals, and plants.

So here we are.  What we do matters.  How we vote matters.

Walk with grace, leave small footprints, but keep your eyes open and use your voice.

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(Photo taken at local March for Science)