Arctic Drilling

IMG_5453Photo: sea lion at my zoo

With the earthquake this morning (a 7.9 magnitude), I was reminded of yet another reason I oppose drilling in the Arctic.  The Trump administration is determined to open up this vast area for oil exploration and extraction.

Here are some reasons to oppose it:

1. Oil Spills

The US government itself estimates that there is a 75% chance of an oil spill in the Chukchi Sea if it is opened to offshore drilling.  Unlike the Gulf of Mexico spill, the remote location and ice will greatly complicate the clean up.  In fact, there is no proven method for cleaning an oil spill off an icy landscape.

2. Animals

An oil spill would be disasterous for wildlife.  But, development will hurt animals too.  197,000 caribou migrate to their calving grounds.  Migratory birds, sea lions, seals, wolves, polar bears, and more call this area home.  Building rigs requires building transport routes and human settlements, undoubtedly causing disruption.

3. Environmental impact everywhere

World scientists are trying to limit average global warming to 2 degrees C.  Drilling in the Arctic will make it  nearly impossible to meet the goal.  Rising sea levels will affect all areas, so if you’re living in Miami you should still care about the great white north.

4. Technology

I was shocked to see a few minutes of CNBC – the stock channel – and hearing them saying they were opposed to drilling in the Arctic and on US coastlines.  If anyone was for it, I would think it would be those looking to make a quick buck.  But, the commentator explained that new technology used by companies like Halliburton have made drilling in current locations very profitable and efficient.   It is possible to have a surplus of production without drilling in new areas.  He believed the long term costs of opening vulnerable areas to drilling would far outweigh any benefit, and hurt our economy in the future.


A sobering read

The New York Magazine article by David Wallace-Wells begins with this statement:

“It is, I promise, worse than you think.”

He goes on describing climate change and how it will affect us this century.  Some points:

-Heat temperatures and humidity, especially in the tropics, will rise above levels that our body systems can handle, expect death rates of animals and humans to rise, especially among children and the elderly.

-Oceans will not only rise, they will become more acidic, further damaging coral reefs which we depend on for biodiversity.   Expect a fishing crisis this century.

-Fish will not be the only food shortage.  Drought will make once arable land useless for crops and unfrozen lands won’t have rich soil to help us out.

– Disease will spread quicker with mutations we cannot expect.  One example: There is bacterium in the Siberian ice, which can unfreeze and be ingested by animals and spread to humans.  It’s not science fiction.

-Conflict will occur as people compete for dwindling resources. Look for more war and strife this century.

-If you think the recession was tough, get ready for more economic hardship.  Remember reading about the Dust Bowl?  Now imagine that situation becoming standard in many populated areas.

Needless to say, it is a massively discouraging article, especially as we read this week that the US wants to open more coastal water for oil exploration.

The takeaway: It is not too late to care.  Support scientific R&D, live a ‘greener’ life, support organizations and businesses that care for our planet, educate yourself on the issues, and vote for candidates who are concerned about the environment.




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.



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.


(Photo taken at local March for Science)








Climate Vulnerable Forum

Today the BBC wrote about a meeting of the Climate Vulnerable Forum.  In it, the group strongly defended the Paris Climate Agreement.   The group of 48 countries is especially concerned because the United States has threatened to pull out of the agreement.

Not surprisingly, many of the most vulnerable countries are also home to elephants – countries like Cambodia, Kenya, and the DRC.  As I’ve written in a few posts, one of the main reasons elephants are endangered is climate change.  Many elephants have died from severe drought and others have moved into human populated areas searching for food (thus increasing human-elephant conflict).  Climate change has increased the number of those turning to poaching to make a living, after family farms have faced extreme hardships.   Climate change has also created human conflict over resources, leading to war and famine.  In such dire circumstances, obviously the fate of elephants and conservation do not receive much consideration.

The Paris agreement had modest goals, and as the Climate Vulnerable Forum said the fate of one billion plus people depends on international cooperation.  One piece of good news from the forum is that some countries are trying to go above and beyond the goals to reduce emissions.

From BBC:

At the last major conference of negotiators in Marrakech last November, members of the CVF committed themselves to moving towards 100% renewable energy as soon as possible.
“Costa Rica produces 100% renewable energy most of the year,” said William Calvo, the country’s adjunct chief negotiator.
“But we won’t stop there: we are tackling now the transport sector and hope to even export renewable power more widely in the region.”
The idea that other countries are capable of picking up the slack if the Americans pull out of Paris gained support this week with the release of an analysis showing that India and China are likely to overshoot existing targets to cut carbon.



Six months

Well, it’s already been six months since I began the blog, and I must admit I’m surprised that I’ve been able to post nearly every day.  I started thinking I would have a month or so worth of posts about elephants, and then have to change course.

But, I have found the topic to be rather inexhaustible.  In addition, learning about elephants have made me naturally connect to other topics like conservation, environmental policy, animal rights, and human rights.

If there is one thing I have learned these past six months, it is that we are all connected.


(Photo taken at Elephant Nature Park)

One of my first posts was about why we should care about saving elephants.  When there are so many issues that need our attention, why devote so much time and resources to an endangered species?

In 2015, BBC Earth did a report on the same topic.  They found that although saving any species does require a huge investment, the economic and social benefit long term far exceeeds it.  (In one example, they looked at how the tourist industry depends heavily on environmental beauty and biodiversity.  In another example, they mentioned that medical advances found in nature can provide huge benefits to humankind).

But, after their long report, their conclusion at the end was the same and as simple as mine is now.

Why should we care?  We should care because we are all connected.







Killer whale with high levels of PCBs

Lulu the killer whale died last year, caught in fishing rope.  Results have now been published about tests on her carcass.  Lulu had incredibly high levels of PCBs in her body, one hundred times accepted levels.  This likely made her infertile, and PCB also makes killer whales prone to poor immunity and cancer.

The killer whale population has been declining and PCB is likely a big reason why.

PCBs were banned in the US in 1979, but for over fifty years the chemical was used in refrigerators, electrical insulators, and sprayed on roads.  Of course, chemicals entered the water system and did not simply disappear.

A killer whale, near the top of the food chain, would have high levels of PCB since each level of the food chain would have consumed the chemical.

If this story makes you wonder what’s lurking in your seafood meal, you are not overly paranoid.  Fish and other seafood often have dangerous chemicals that we ingest.  Therefore, it is wise to limit seafood consumption and check environmental standards of your seafood through sites like Seafood Watch by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.