Living Planet Report – 2014/ Will We Do Anything?


The World Wildlife Fund have recently published an in-depth report that clearly shows that half the animals in the world have disappeared since 1970 because of uncontrollable human expansion. This Living Planet report looked at 10,380 populations of 3,038 species across the planet and found that populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined on average by 52% in the last 40 years. In terms of freshwater creatures the situation is even more critical, with a population collapse of 75% over the same period. Almost the entire decline is due to human activity, through habitat loss, deforestation, climate change, over-fishing and hunting, with the illegal wildlife trade, alone – devastating wildlife numbers.

The situation is worse in low-income countries, where wildlife populations have declined by 58% on average between 1970 and 2010. Latin America has the biggest decline, with 83% of animals lost in 40 years.

The Living Planet report also warned that human activity is outstripping the resources the Earth can provide, cutting down forests too quickly, overfishing and putting out more carbon dioxide than the planet can absorb, leading to climate change.. It is estimated Earth would need to be 1.5 times larger to soak up the damage caused by man. There seems to be an enormous disconnect between going to the supermarket and putting fuel in your car and the global statistics in this report.

David Nussbaum, chief executive of the WWF in the UK said: ” The scale of destruction highlighted in this report should be a wake-up call to us all.. We all, politicians, businesses and people, have an interest and a responsibility to act to ensure we protect what we all value: a healthy future for both people and nature.”

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Folklore, Magic & Religious Rituals – Extinction


According to a major scientific survey of 390 species studied, 101, or more than a quarter, are regularly killed for their body parts, with 47  species being used for their supposed medicinal properties, 34 used for magical or religious practices, and 20 for both purposes.

For example, spider monkeys are eaten to treat rheumatism, while gorilla parts are given to pregnant women. The Mammal Review, the journal of the UK Mammal Society, are quite clear in their findings – these practices are accelerating the decline of many vulnerable species. ” Despite laws, use and trade of the species for medicinal purposes persists,” says Professor Romulo Alves of the State University of Paraiba in Brazil, who conducted the survey with colleagues.

Although the trade in all primates species is SUPPOSED to be tightly regulated by CITES legislation it has not stopped this massive illegal trade in wild animal body parts.

The following is a breakdown of how specific animal parts are used for medicinal purposes

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Inside The Chinese Fur Trade


For many years the international fur trade has waged a coordinated, well funded campaign to dispel the moral stigma attached to wearing fur. However, no amount of slick marketing will hide the hideous treatment of animals and the grotesque deaths that millions of animals suffer in the fur trade. China is just one of many countries that permit this trade.

Eighty five percent of the world’s fur originates from farms and China is the  largest exporter of fur clothing. It is also, according to industry sources, the biggest fur trade production and processing base in the world. In fact, a growing number of international fur traders, processors and fashion designers have gradually shifted their business to China, where cheap labour and the absence of restrictive regulations make life easier and profit margins bigger.

In a range of investigations [see YouTube - cruelty in Chinese Fur Trade ]undercover investigators  said they found scenes beyond their worst imaginings. Animals are often transported over large distances and under horrendous conditions before they are slaughtered.Workers can be seen throwing cages crammed with animals, to the ground, shattering the animals bones.  They are stunned with repeated blows to the head or swung against the ground. Skinning begins with a knife at the rear of the belly whilst the animal is hung up-side-down by its hind legs from a hook. A significant number of animals remain fully conscious during this process. Even after their skin has been stripped off, breathing, heart beat, directional body and eyelid movements were evident for 5 to 10 minutes. Because fur farmers care only about preserving the quality of the fur, they use these slaughter methods that keep the pelts intact but that results in the most extreme suffering for the animals.

There are no penalties for abusing animals on fur farms in China. Animals   bred for fur include red and arctic foxes, raccoon dogs, mink, and Rex Rabbits.

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The Hideous Cost of War


How many people died in all wars, massacres, slaughters and oppressions of the 20th century? Perhaps this might be considered an impossible question to answer. However, there are a number of historians and researchers who have attempted an answer.

M. Cherif Bassouni – Law and Contemporary Problems: Total -  203,000,000

Zbigniew Brzezinski – Out of Control: Global Turmoil on the Eve of the 21st Century – “Lives deliberately extinguished by politically motivated carnage” - 167,000,000 – 175,000,000

Milton Leitenberg – “Politically caused deaths in the 20th century” – 214,000,000 – 226,000,000

Rudolf J. Rummel – Death By Government – “Democides” – Government inflicted deaths [1900-87], wars, famines associated with war and Communist mismanagement -258,327,000

Matthew White – Historical Atlas of the Twentieth Century, 2010 – 203,000,000

The impact of wars can be seen not only in terms of human deaths,the destruction of cities, towns and villages and its associated economic and social disruption etc –  but also in the environments in which these wars have been waged. The long years of war have resulted in a radical destruction of forest cover and an increase in carbon emissions. In addition, water supplies have been contaminated by oil from military vehicles and depleted uranium from ammunition, as well as benzene and trichloroethylene from air base operations. Perchlorate, a toxic ingredient in rocket propellant, is one of a number of contaminants commonly found in groundwater around munitions storage sites around the world.  Along with the  degradation  of natural resources, there has also been a massive loss of animal and bird life etc.

The wars have also damaged and destroyed forests, wetlands and marshlands in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. Radical deforestation has accompanied this and the previous wars in Afghanistan. Total forest area decreased 38% in Afghanistan from 1990 to 2007. This is a result of illegal logging, which is associated with the rising power of the warlords who have enjoyed U.S. support. In addition, deforestation has occurred in each of these countries as refugees seek out fuel and building materials. Drought, desertification, and species loss that accompany habitat loss have been the result. Moreover, as the wars have led to environmental destruction, the degraded environment itself contributes to further conflict.

U.S. bases became a lucrative market for the skins of the Snow Leopard, and impoverished and refugee Afghans have been more willing to break the ban on hunting them, in place since 2002. Foreign aid workers have also bought the skins. The remaining numbers of Snow Leopards were estimated at between 100 and 200 in 2008.






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Vietnam – A Tragedy Without End

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Between 1961 and 1971, more than 20 million gallons of herbicides, the most notorious being “Agent Orange” were sprayed by the US to defoliate forests and eliminate enemy crops. Some of the herbicides contained dioxins – compounds potentially harmful to people and wildlife. As the spray was often concentrated along strategic waterways, it is believed to have had a long-term impact on wetlands and riverside vegetation. Repeated applications of chemicals sometimes eradicated all vegetation, according to the study – Vietnam: A Natural History.

Direct attempts to eradicate Vietnam’s forests were not the only military activities to affect its environment. The estimated 14 million tons of bombs or cluster-bombs dropped on to northern and southern Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia left an estimated 10 to 15 million large bomb craters. In addition to the effects of these bombs, the impact of napalm, land mines, and other wartime technology on Vietnam’s biological, animal and human communities has taken and is continuing to take a huge toll.

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The Greenest Government Ever – LIAR!



A new study says Britain’s Conservative-led coalition government has failed to fulfill its promise of developing the ‘greenest government ever’ by making the natural environment one of  its top priorities.  The research by a consortium of 41 NGOs, entitled ‘Wildlife and Countryside Link’, found that Prime Minister David Cameron reneged on his vow, as far as the natural environment is concerned, only making “good progress” on less than a fifth of his pledges, The Guardian reported. The ‘Wildlife and Countryside Link’ said in its own report that the coalition’s environmental record had “steadily worsened” during the government’s time in office. According to the consortium, at least 79 percent of the people questioned said the coalition government has reneged on its promise to be “greenest government ever”.

“David Cameron promised the greenest government ever. Using the government’s own promises as a yardstick, these findings show he’s failed to stick to his plan,” said Dr. Elaine King, the consortium’s director“We’re told an economy in crisis is a higher priority than nature in crisis. Yet the government is missing a huge opportunity – a healthy environment helps the economy and enhances people’s health and wellbeing,” she added. The report also complained about the government’s failure to protect the green belt, farm animal welfare, developing marine conservation zones and reversing declines in wildlife.

Perhaps the governments biggest lie of all was, in fact, its promise to protect Greenbelt. More than half of councils are planning to build on green belt land, casting doubt on Government claims that protected areas would only be developed in ‘exceptional circumstances’. Research for the National Trust has found that 51 per cent of English authorities with green belt land were ‘likely or very likely’ to allocate it for development within the next five years.

More than half of the 147 local authorities that responded to the survey said they had brownfield sites available that could help meet housing targets, but developers did not see them as viable locations for projects. Sir Simon Jenkins, chairman of the National Trust, said last night: ‘The green belt has been the star feature of town and country planning for half a century.‘In one of Europe’s most congested countries, it has prevented urban sprawl, protected a vision of rural England and retained access to green spaces for urban dwellers that has been admired worldwide.’

Just over 12 per cent of England is designated as green belt, a status introduced in the 1950s to protect the countryside around major towns and cities from urban sprawl. The survey, carried out by the Local Government Information Unit, comes 18 months after the Government put in place its National Planning Policy Framework, which aimed to speed up decisions and boost housebuilding. Councils were told that green belt land could only be developed in ‘exceptional circumstances’. But they were also ordered to allocate sufficient land to meet future housing needs. Crucially, the guidance shifted the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’. Earlier this year, the Campaign to Protect Rural England said the number of houses planned for Green Belt land had nearly doubled to 150,000 in the previous 12 months.Sir Simon said: ‘The Government’s definition of “sustainable” is in practice being interpreted as “profitable”, and has effectively killed the former planning presumption in favour of brownfield land. ‘What is now happening is a policy of let rip, leading to steady erosion. For the first time in British planning history, planning control is now the slave not the master of profit.’

PS - The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has relaxed Government regulations on the amount of minimum outdoor space schools must provide pupils for playing team games. Campaigners fear the move, which was approved just a week before the London 2012 Games, will jeopardise the Olympic legacy for grassroots sports by leading to the further sell-off of playing fields.


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Gulf War




The environmental impacts of the Gulf War Crisis were felt immediately at the onset of the Iraqi invasion. Humans began suffering on day one of the invasion and the atrocities towards humans continued with the duration of the war. Thousands were either killed, wounded, raped, or taken prisoner before the war terminated (Sadiq and McCain 1993).

The other casualty of this war was the planet. The land was abused greatly from transportation of heavy artillery and movement of troops across the desert, additionally, the build- up of solid wastes polluted the ground and desert vegetation was uprooted, trampled, and destroyed over the course of the war (1993).

The environment was also damaged to some extent from the fire and smoke produced from explosives, oil fires, and from both known and unknown chemicals. At the same time that Iraqi troops were building-up their force, Saddam was threatening that “if he had to be evicted from Kuwait by force, then Kuwait would be burned” (Sadiq and McCain, p. 2 1993). As promised, upon evacuation, Iraqi troops set fire to over six-hundred oil wells in several Kuwait oil fields. The effect that the oil fires had on the Gulf environment were enormous. Even before the wells began burning, researchers forecast  that rising smoke would cause changes in the planet’s weather pattern (Zimmer, 1992).

The Gulf’s ecosystem was not spared in the least during the Gulf War. An estimated 11 million barrels of oil were intentionally released to the Arabian Gulf from January 1991 to May 1991 (Sadiq and McCain 1993). This is more than twenty times larger than the Exxon Valdez spill and twice as large as the previous world record (Zimmer 1992) More than 800 miles of Kuwait and Saudi Arabian beaches were oiled and marine wildlife was devastated. Oiled birds revealed on CNN by the media painted an accurate picture of the occurrences in the Gulf. In fact, birds were the hardest hit of any group of organisms and thousands lost their lives (Sadiq and McCain 1993). Along with the migratory birds, marine turtles were also in danger. Both the hawksbill and green turtles utilize the offshore islands of the Gulf as nesting sites. After the National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development (NCWCD) investigated the Gulf beaches, they determined that some turtles had died and that most Karan Island green turtles had lesions (1993).

At lease 80 ships were sunk during the Gulf War, many of which carried oil and munitions. These ships, along with those submerged during the Iraq-Iran War, will remain a chronic source of contamination of the Arabian Gulf for many years (1993).

[ICE Case Studies]


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“Trees Are Our Enemy”


“Trees are our enemy.” – American Army commander

During the time of the Vietnam War, dipterocarp forests, plantations, mangroves, brush lands, and other woody vegetation covered around 25 million acres of southern Vietnam. The dense forests that covered the uplands of southern Vietnam also provided cover for the enemy forces that the US military and its allies were fighting. For ten years, the US Air Force flew nearly 20,000 herbicide spray missions to destroy the forest cover as well as agricultural lands in key areas of southern Vietnam. More than five million acres of forests and agricultural lands were sprayed at least once, approximately 10% of total land area of southern Vietnam, and about 20% of the forest cover.

Within two to three weeks of spraying, the leaves would drop from the trees, which would remain bare until the next rainy season. In order to defoliate the lower stories of forest cover, one or more follow-up sprayings were needed. About 10 percent of the trees sprayed died from a single spray run. Multiple sprayings resulted in increased mortality for the trees, as did following the herbicide missions with napalm or bombing strikes.

Among the trees that died from a single spraying were the mangroves in the Delta region, the most sensitive trees of all. Approximately 259,000 acres of mangroves were sprayed, with about one-third of the mangroves vital to the coastal ecology damaged or destroyed. In addition, 15% of the spray runs, mainly using Agent Blue, were targeted against agricultural lands in an attempt to deny food to the enemy.However, civilian food sources were also damaged.

Hundreds of tree species were among the victims of the herbicides. A minimum of 20 million cubic meters of timber was destroyed, though estimates range as high as 90 million taking into consideration the additional impact of plows, bombing, napalm strikes and harvesting of defoliated trees. The destruction was so great that the terms “ecological warfare” and, later, “ecocide” were coined to describe it.

In areas where deforestation and subsequent degradation of the forest occurred, invasive species of grasses Pennisetum polystachyon and Imperata cylindrica that the Vietnamese call “American grass” took over. Natural regeneration of the forest cover lost was not possible, as there were not enough trees to produce viable seedlings, nor was there a layer of trees to protect the vulnerable seedlings from the harsh tropical sun. Moreover, with the defoliated lands unable to hold on to the soil during the heavy rains, there resulted a depletion of soil nutrients and large scale erosion, especially in the mountainous regions affecting 28 river basins in southern Vietnam. Even with intense reforestation, it would take a hundred years or more to bring these areas back to pre-war conditions.

[ Philip Jones Griffiths, “Agent Orange:  Collateral Damage in Viet Nam,” 2004.]

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Lions On The Brink



[Article from 2012]

A new ad campaign is underway in South Africa to stop the country’s lion bone trade. Lions are killed so their bones can be used to make fake aphrodisiacs and traditional medicines. The demand for the bones is growing in Asia as tigers become scarce. The campaign’s been launched by Avaaz – a group describing itself as a global web movement, whose name means “voice” in several languages.

The ads can be found in Johannesburg Airport’s International Arrival Hall, the inflight magazine aboard South African Airways and on Google. They’re aimed at stopping what’s known as canned hunting. Lions are born and raised on game farms for the sole purpose of being hunted. Some reports say hunters pay as much as $20,000 to do so. “South Africa’s lions are being decimated. Trade is exploding right now and experts fear that even wild lions, with only 20,000 left in Africa, are starting to come under poaching attack. This horrific trade could harm South Africa’s tourist industry and its reputation as a wildlife haven unless President Zuma steps in right now to ban the lion bone trade,” said Jamie Choi, Avaaz’s Campaign Director.

Tiger and rhino populations have been hit very hard by poachers seeking to sell bones, horns and hides to the Asian market. Choi said lions are next in line.

“Lion bones are currently used as substitutes for tiger bones, and they’re used to make products like tiger bone wine, which is very popular among wealthy consumers in countries like Vietnam and China. These products are wrongfully believed to be good for arthritis and rheumatism, but also a lot of people carry the superstitious belief that it boosts the sex drive,” she said.

In May, South Africa’s Environment Minister Edna Molewa rejected calls to ban the lion bone trade and said she did not believe it put lions in the wild in danger.

Choi said the new ads are phase two of a global campaign.“[On] June 27, we launched a global petition campaign urging President Zuma to stop this lion bone trade. And within one month’s time we had over 700,000 people around the world sign this petition. However, we did not receive a response from the environment minister or President Zuma’s office. So we decided to launch a second phase of this campaign to shed light [on] what is happening to the lions of South Africa,” he said.

Not everyone views the issue as cut and dried. Researchers at the University of Pretoria and Sweet Briar College in the U.S. state of Virginia looked into the controversy. Their study said, “The captive-bred lion hunting industry in South Africa has grown rapidly, while the number of wild lions hunted in other African countries has declined.”

They also said that “If captive-bred lion hunting were ever prohibited, a transfer of demand to wild lion hunts could lead to elevated off-takes with negative impacts on wild populations.”

The researchers added, “If there are any future efforts to control the captive-bred lion hunting industry, decision-makers should take cognizance of the potential for increased demand for wild lion trophies and implement steps to prevent excessive harvests. Such steps should include tight restrictions on sustainable harvests, age restrictions on lion trophies, and in South Africa, consideration of implementing buffer zones around parks in which lion hunting is prohibited or strictly controlled.”

The researchers said, however, that further research is “urgently required” to identify potential risks for lion conservation.

[Voice of America - Joe De Capua - 10/08/12] comment – Surely the time has come to ban all ‘ captive-bred animal hunting, especially as most of these  animals are on the brink of extinction. For animals to be bred solely for the purpose of giving some rich bastard the opportunity for a quick thrill in shooting them dead, defies belief.



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Letter To a Senator


[Image - The]

Dear Senator:

As you consider climate change legislation,we, as leaders of scientific organisations, write to state the consensus scientific view. Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. These conclusions are based on multiple independent lines of evidence, and contrary assertions are inconsistant with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer-reviewed science. Moreover, there is strong evidence that ongoing climate change will have broad impacts on society, including the global economy and on the environment. For the United States, climate change impacts include sea level rise for coastal states, greater threats of extreme weather events, and increased risk of regional water scarcity, urban heat waves, western wildfires and the disturbance of biological systems throughout the country. The severity of climate change impacts is expected to increase substantially in the coming decades.

If we are to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, emissions of greenhouse gases must be dramatically reduced. In addition, adaption will be necessary to address those impacts that are already unavoidable. Adaption efforts include improved infrastructure design, more sustainable management of water and other natural resources, modified agricultural practices, and improved emergency responses to storms, floods, fires and heatwaves.

We in the scientific community offer our assistance to inform your deliberations as you seek to address the impacts of climate change. The conclusions in this paragraph reflect the scientific consensus represented by, for example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and U.S. Global Change Research Program. Many scientific societies have endorsed these findings in their own statements, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Chemical Society,American Geophysical Union, American Meteorological Society and American Statistical Association.

1200 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20005 USA

  • American  Chemical Society
  • American Geophysical Union
  • American Institute of Biological Sciences
  • American Meteorological Society
  • American Society of Agronomy
  • American Society of Plant Biologists
  • American Statistical Association
  • Association of Ecosystem Research Centers
  • Botanical Society of America
  • Ecological Society of America
  • Natural Science Collection Alliance
  • Organisation of Biological Field Stations
  • Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics
  • Society of Systematic Biologists
  • Soil Science Society of America
  • University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
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