No. 16, February 17, 2012
In This Issue:
A Long Way From the North Pole
I recently read that Tucson's zoo, in the middle of an American desert, drives snow down from the mountains for its polar bear exhibit.
In just a few human generations, zoos may be the last refuge for these incredible bears. Why? Too many people driving too many cars.
Polar bears are extraordinary creatures, swimming hundreds of miles for food, protected from the Arctic cold by a five-inch layer of blubber. But human-caused global warming -- driven by the power we consume and the cars we drive -- is stealing their sea-ice habitat. Most of the 7.5 billion people on the planet will never see a polar bear in the wild, yet we're having a profound effect on its survival. Without help, scientists say two-thirds of the world's polar bears could be gone by 2050 and the rest by the end of the century. Time's running out.
Endangered species face threats to survival that most often stem from rich countries' consumption. And while many of those countries' human populations are beginning to decrease, the United States, with its extreme consumerist bent, has not followed this trend. At current rates, a child born in the United States will be responsible for almost seven times the carbon emissions of a child born in China, and have 168 times the impact of a child born in Bangladesh. Even if Americans can reduce their consumerist lifestyles, it won't make up for even more people consuming.
Mother Knows Best
March 8 is International Women's Day. The weekend before, I'll be joining up with an exciting panel of women to present on population and the environment at a conference in Eugene, Ore. Kim Lovell from the Sierra Club, writer Lisa Hymas of Grist magazine, Laurie Mazur and I will be discussing the importance of bringing population back into the environmental movement and ensuring equitable access to family planning. (We'll post a video of the discussion next month.) While we're in Oregon, we thought it would be a good chance to link up with some of our supporters and host a few screenings of the film Mother: Caring for 7 Billion. The Center's events listing page has more details, as well as our Facebook page.
I've watched Mother several times over the past six months, and each time I feel moved to discuss the issues it brings up, because they go to the heart of our overpopulation program: considering the larger impacts of adding more and more humans to this planet. If you haven't had a chance to watch the trailer, you can do that here. The website has information about hosting a screening in your community. If you think you might want to organize one, get in touch with us, and we can help prepare for your event and the discussion that may follow.
The Other Carbon Disaster: Ocean Acidification
While most of the world has become painfully aware of the disastrous effects of global warming, fewer people talk about the other major planetary change being driven by carbon emissions: ocean acidification. Our oceans absorb some 22 million tons of carbon pollution every day. This is making seawater more acidic and creating problems for corals, shellfish, plankton and other creatures and has the potential to march up the food chain and affect larger fish, whales and even us.
One of the species threatened by ocean acidification is the black abalone, which clings to rocks in intertidal zones or shallow waters along the West Coast. Once a prolific shellfish ranging from Oregon to Baja California, the black abalone was eventually overfished and is now on the brink of extinction. The Center for Biological Diversity took action by suing the EPA to require that all states identify coastal waters that are in trouble due to acidification under the powerful Clean Water Act. And recently the Center successfully petitioned for 140 square miles of critical habitat for the black abalone.
With half the world's human population living within 100 miles of an ocean, our coastlines are a great place to take on overpopulation. One community in the Philippines recently increased access to family planning as a way to lessen future demand on its local fishing grounds. This type of small but important action will not only benefit generations of people and species, but ought to be a model of the kind of action needed to address one of the most pressing threats in human history.
Less is more,
Overpopulation Campaign Coordinator
Center for Biological Diversity | P.O. Box 710, Tucson, AZ 85702-0710
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Polar bear photo (c) Brendan Cummings.