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Largest Climate Demonstration in U.S. History

Forward on Climate rallyOn Sunday more than 50,000 people rallied in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco to tell President Barack Obama that the time to deal with the climate crisis is now. It was the single-largest demonstration on climate in U.S. history. The Center for Biological Diversity, including Frostpaw the Polar Bear, attended both inspirational rallies. Thanks to all the Center supporters who attended -- and to those providing moral support from home.

We need to turn the corner on climate change. That means rejecting the toxic Keystone XL pipeline, saying no to dangerous drilling in our pristine Arctic Ocean and banning fracking on public lands. After the rallies President Obama updated his Facebook status to read: "We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science -- and act before it's too late." We couldn't agree more.

Read more and see exciting photos in the San Francisco Chronicle. Then sign up to become one of the Center’s Clean Air Advocates.

Feds Deny Polar Bears Protection From Greenhouse Gas Pollution

Polar bear cubsEven after months of high-profile statements about climate change, the Obama administration finalized a special rule Tuesday that fails to protect polar bears from greenhouse gas pollution under the Endangered Species Act. The new "4(d)" rule dates from the Bush era and excludes activities occurring outside polar bear habitat -- notably, carbon emissions causing global warming and sea-ice melt -- from being addressed to prevent the bear's extinction.

Polar bears were the first species protected under the Act, after a Center for Biological Diversity petition, solely because of threats from global warming. They need Arctic sea ice, which reached a record low last summer, to survive. The feds' special rule comes just days after a new report from 12 leading polar bear scientists urging governments to plan for rapid ecosystem changes that could send key bear populations into abrupt decline. Without help, more than two-thirds of the planet's polar bears, including all the bears in Alaska, will likely be gone by 2050.

"The Obama administration's strong climate rhetoric is completely at odds with this weak decision not to protect polar bears from carbon pollution," said the Center's Brendan Cummings.

Read more in our press release.

Deadly Bat Disease Spreads to Kentucky's Cumberland National Park

Eastern pipistrelle bat with white-nose syndromeThe infamous bat disease called white-nose syndrome has already killed nearly 7 million bats; it has spread to 19 U.S. states and at least four Canadian provinces since its New York discovery in 2006. Now the disease has staked a claim to yet another location: Cumberland Gap National Historical Park in Kentucky, the 10th national park where white-nose has been found. A bat suspected of suffering from white-nose syndrome was also found for the first time on Canada's Prince Edward Island, and officials in Great Smoky Mountains National Park suspect the disease is there, too.

Bats are believed to carry the disease -- but so, possibly, do people. The Center for Biological Diversity has been trying to stem transmission by humans for many years through public outreach, petitions and litigation.

Learn more about our fight against this bat crisis, take action to help us win and like Save Our Bats on Facebook.

Study: Florida One of World's Reptile-extinction Hot Spots

Barbour's map turtleA new study on the reptile extinction crisis reveals a scary truth for reptilian Floridians: Worldwide, Florida has one of the highest numbers of threatened reptiles. In fact, according to more than 200 experts from the renowned International Union for the Conservation of Nature, one out of five reptile species on the globe is on the edge of extinction. The top threats? Habitat loss and overharvest. The study raised especially troubling prospects for freshwater turtles like the Barbour's map turtle, predicting that about half of these creatures could wink out forever.

The Center for Biological Diversity has been working to gain Endangered Species Act protection for more than a dozen imperiled Florida reptiles, from the eastern ribbon snake to the Florida Keys mole skink to the alligator snapping turtle (and Barbour's map turtle, too). In 2011 we filed the largest-ever federal petition solely to protect U.S. amphibians and reptiles; the year before, we petitioned to protect hundreds of aquatic species in the Southeast, including many rare reptile species.

"Florida is blessed with a rich diversity of lizards, turtles and snakes," said the Center's Collette Adkins Giese, our reptile-and-amphibian specialist. "This new study confirms that reptiles are facing a global extinction crisis that demands more aggressive action to curb threats like habitat destruction and overharvest." We've been taking that action -- and we're not about to stop.

Read this story in the Summit County Citizens Voice. Then learn more in our press release, where you can also read the study.

Is It Time to Classify Plastic Pollution as Hazardous Waste?

Hawaiian monk sealWhat if the most harmful plastic garbage in our oceans and on our beaches were classified as hazardous waste? A group of leading scientists proposing just that in the journal Nature say it could change how government agencies treat plastic pollution and speed up research into safer alternatives. It's an intriguing idea that could help solve the massive pollution problem in our oceans.

Billions of pounds of plastic litter -- from grocery bags to soda bottles -- are swirling around in the oceans, often in giant convergences like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that's twice the size of Texas. This has deadly consequences for nearly 300 marine species that choke on the plastic, get tangled in it or absorb its toxic chemicals. They include endangered Hawaiian monk seals, sea turtles, birds, whales and fish.

The Center for Biological Diversity has petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate plastics as a pollutant. We also petitioned to have a portion of the Pacific Garbage Patch, as well as the 1,200-mile Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, designated as a Superfund site in order to address staggering plastic pollution afflicting those areas.

Read about the scientists' proposal to treat plastics as hazardous waste and then learn more about our campaign to save sea life from plastic pollution.

Suit Launched to Bolster Bird, Lizard Against Florida Sea-level Rise

Florida Keys mole skinkWith its flat lands, numerous swamps and precipitous peninsula jutting straight into the ocean, Florida is highly vulnerable to sea-level rise. Its species are in danger, too -- including the pale-bellied, high-flying MacGillivray's seaside sparrow and the ground-bound, shiny-skinned Florida Keys mole skink, a lizard with very short legs and an impossibly long red tail. The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to protect the sparrow and skink in 2010, prompting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to declare they "may be warranted" for Endangered Species Act protection due to coastal development and other habitat demolishers. But a year later, the Service missed its decision deadline, so this Wednesday we filed a notice of intent to sue.

Driven by climate change, sea-level rise of three to six feet in Florida is highly likely within this century. That would leave the sparrow and skink with very little -- or even zero -- room to rove. The Center's notice should help save these and other Florida species' habitat while fighting the climate change eating away at shorelines everywhere. Inundation is imminent, so we're acting fast.

Read more in our press release.

Genetically Engineered Salmon Could Hurt Wild Salmon -- Take Action

Coho salmonThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration plans to approve genetically engineered salmon for general consumption in the next few months -- which could be catastrophic for wild salmon populations that already have an uphill battle for survival.

The proposal would deregulate "AquAdvantage" salmon -- a genetically engineered fish that combines the genetic material of Atlantic and chinook salmon, as well as that of a sea eel, to supercharge growth rates. FDA approval means these "Frankenfish" will end up in grocery stores without any indication that the food is genetically modified.

The agency claims there's no possibility of a significant environmental impact from deregulation. But if genetically engineered salmon escaped into the environment, they would compete against native salmon and potentially spread diseases to struggling wild populations. And farmed salmon frequently escape into the wild. It would only take a few genetically engineered fish to push an entire wild salmon population to the brink of extinction.

Take action now and tell the FDA to prevent Frankenfish from invading our rivers, streams and supermarkets.

Population Growth Boosterism: An Idea Whose Time Has Passed

Nanjing crowdChicago's public radio station WBEZ has launched a marketing campaign urging listeners to breed more so that their fund drive in the year 2032 will be a success. Loyal NPR listeners make more loyal NPR listeners, right? Yeah, we get that it's meant to be clever and tongue-in-cheek, but Jerry Karnas, the Center for Biological Diversity's population campaign director, also saw it as an opportunity to talk about something more serious: the price that wildlife and our environment pay when the human population grows and grows.

Jerry's op-ed, published in Chicago's Daily Herald, points out that we're already adding 200,000 more people to the planet every day and that we're on track to hit up to 10 billion people by 2050. The cost? All those people will "gobble up land and water, pollute the air, accelerate the extinction of animals and push our climate perilously close to disaster." And that spells trouble for panthers, sea turtles, wolves, frogs, salamanders and species around the globe.

"It's not rocket science," Jerry writes in his piece. "The more people we crowd onto the planet, the less room there is for animals and the wild places we love. And the less room there is for human quality of life."

Read Jerry's op-ed and sign up for Pop X, our monthly e-newsletter about population and the extinction crisis.

Wild & Weird: First-ever Video of a Thought Being Born

Le PenseurRecently a team of Japanese biologists captured the first-ever footage of a thought forming in the brain. Take a look and you'll see what at first appears to be an aerial view of a lightning storm. Those flashes are thoughts, appearing as glowing neurons, activating in the gray matter of a zebrafish in response to seeing prey.

In other words, this is a cranial light show that translates roughly, from minnow to English, as "lunch!"

Get more from Geekosystem and watch a video of the fish's thought.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: polar bears by Pete Spruance; Forward on Climate rally by Rose Braz, Center for Biological Diversity; polar bear cubs courtesy USFWS; eastern pipistrelle bat with WNS courtesy NPS; Barbour's map turtle courtesy USGS; Hawaiian monk seal by Barbara Billand, NOAA; Florida Keys mole skink courtesy USFWS; coho salmon courtesy Flickr/Dan Bennett; Nanjing crowd courtesy Flickr/Peter Garnhum; Le Penseur courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Daniel Stockman.

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