No. 15, January 20, 2012
In This Issue:
More People Means Fewer Butterflies
The Lange's metalmark butterfly is a stunning insect with white-on-black dots on its wings and a red-orange center that makes it impossible to miss. There were once some 250,000; today there are almost none. The tale of this lovely butterfly's disappearance is a quiet tragedy.
Last month I went to one of the few places where the Lange's metalmark is still -- we hope -- clinging to life. The tiny Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge, just outside San Francisco, was the first refuge ever set up to protect endangered species in America, including the Lange's metalmark. It sits on the banks of the San Joaquin River, right next to several power plants and a massive pile of yard clippings and invasive weeds. It's not Eden, but it's all this butterfly has left.
In the aftermath of San Francisco's 1906 earthquake, there was a frenzy to rebuild and expand the city. Crews needed a close, easy source of bricks, and as it turned out the sand of the Antioch Dunes would do nicely. Within a few short years, the dunes were devastated, and so was the refuge's naked-stemmed buckwheat, a host plant for the Lange's metalmark butterfly -- whose population predictably plummeted. In 1986, only 154 of these butterflies could be found, and 20 years later there were just 45. Last year, the annual count for the Lange's metalmark was at a record low. Recovery efforts have been frustrated by the recent buildup of power plants surrounding the refuge. Nitrogen emissions from the plants have changed the chemical composition of the dune soil, facilitating the spread of devastating invasive weeds and the demise of native plants like the naked-stemmed buckwheat.
Check out a short video of my visit to the refuge. The plight of the Lange's metalmark is one reason why the Center for Biological Diversity works to save species from the effects of human overpopulation and consumption. This butterfly was also one of our "top 10 species affected by overpopulation" in a report we released last fall. I'll feature another video of one of those top 10 species in a Pop X issue soon.
The Right Call for Species
We got it: You had a big year and you wanted to celebrate, or you had a lousy year and couldn't wait to turn the page. Either way, people like to party on New Year's Eve. When we found out more humans are conceived around the new year than at any other time, we knew we had to act.
That's why, for the sake of panthers, polar bears and endangered species everywhere, we launched our Hump Smarter Hotline. More than a thousand people called in and heard our simple (and completely straight-faced) message: "What better moment to make sure this one roll in the sheets doesn't push some poor creature into extinction?" And to the Lonely Guys or Gals at home with ferns and microwave popcorn, we offered our thanks for their brave contribution to saving life on Earth.
Hey, the Los Angeles Times thought it was a good idea! If you're disappointed you missed out, don't fret -- the phone line is still up. 1-800-628-2399. Go ahead. Give it a call. You know you're curious.
Election-year Pressure on Women's Health
As election-year momentum builds, the edge on political issues in the United States gets more defined. This past week, researchers at the prominent Guttmacher Institute released a disturbing report on the state of reproductive rights documenting an unprecedented level of unhealthy attention to reproductive health by state legislatures across the country: Sixty-eight percent of new reproductive-health provisions enacted in 2011 promoted a restriction to abortion services.
These numbers reflect the enormous pressure on these essential services in this country. The United States falls far behind much of the world, rich countries and poor, in our progress to make family planning accessible to all. From increased funding for abstinence-only education curriculum to removing critical funding for women's health and family-planning services, our most important tools to make informed choices about the world we live in are under attack.
In the coming months, we need you to step up and help make the connection between reproductive rights and the quality of life, human and not, that we want in the future. Take a minute and check out our overpopulation Activist Toolbox.
Water Disputes Hang Species Out to Dry
Last week the Center notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that we planned to seek emergency Endangered Species Act protection for the Jollyville Plateau salamander in Texas. This not-so-jolly salamander was already facing threats from an ongoing drought when a proposed water-treatment plant for Austin came ripping through its habitat. As one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, Austin's increasing water needs have put endangered species in the crosshairs.
We wish we could offer Austin some great examples of how fast-growing U.S. cities cope brilliantly with water issues. But sadly, there aren't many. A place like Las Vegas has its own problems, such as threatening several imperiled species to quench its rapidly expanding thirst; and Las Vegas is by no means alone. Just three years ago, the world's population shifted to more people living in cities than in rural areas for the first time in human history.
The question of bringing millions of gallons of drinking water across thousands of miles to the new urban landscape will be one of our greatest environmental challenges in the coming decades. Stay tuned for next month's visit to another species' refuge that's threatened by the basic needs of a rapidly expanding population.
Less is more,
Overpopulation Campaign Coordinator
Center for Biological Diversity | P.O. Box 710, Tucson, AZ 85702-0710
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Lange's metalmark butterfly photo courtesy USFWS.