Weathering the Climate Crisis
From Stephanie Feldstein, Population and Sustainability Program Director
Summer in the Pacific Northwest, where I live, is beautiful, with temperatures hovering in the 70s for most of the season. But a few weeks ago, a heat dome settled over the region, and temperatures ran as high as 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Hundreds of people in the United States and Canada died from heat-related causes. In a region built for cooler weather, roads buckled and electrical cables melted. Agricultural crops and native vegetation turned brown. It’s estimated that more than a billion marine animals perished along Canada’s West Coast alone.
As our Population and Sustainability Organizer Sarah Baillie wrote in a letter to the Los Angeles Times, the climate emergency is too urgent to ignore — and so is its complex relationship with population growth and human rights. We need to bring down greenhouse gas emissions fast by transforming energy generation, food production and unchecked consumption. But we also need to recognize the role of population growth and rights-based solutions in reducing emissions and make it easier for communities to weather the changing climate.
Read on to learn more about how the conversation’s changing around population, consumption and the climate crisis.
The Pacific Northwest heat dome rapidly melted the snowpack on peaks like Mount Hood, flooding roads, forcing campsite evacuations, and leaving less water for ecosystems and agriculture later in the year.
Draft Biodiversity Plan Lacks Ambition on Extinction
The long-awaited draft of the International Convention on Biological Diversity’s framework for a healthy planet was released on June 6. But despite its goal of stemming biodiversity loss, the document fails to call for a halt to species extinctions. “Human-induced loss of species needs to stop, and it needs to stop yesterday,” said Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Center.
The draft framework also proposes weak commitments on wildlife trade, despite the likely zoonotic origins of COVID-19. The parties to the convention — 195 countries plus the European Union (and minus the United States) — will negotiate the next draft virtually over the coming months, so there’s still time for them to address the extinction crisis head-on.
Here’s one thing you can do: To stop the extinction crisis and prevent future pandemics, we have to transform our relationship with nature, including banning the trade of live wildlife for food or medicine. Urge your members of Congress to support the Preventing Future Pandemics Act.
The Beef Industry’s Climate Lies
The Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef — an industry group that self-certifies voluntary participants as “sustainable” — recently published an article using industry-funded studies, fuzzy math and misleading information to falsely claim that reducing beef consumption would cause more harm than good for the climate. Senior Food Campaigner Jennifer Molidor responded, explaining that the beef industry is a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions and land and water consumption, in addition to pollution and biodiversity loss, and won’t save climate-scorched Canada. And she busts the myths around the idea that cattle can simply replace native bison — or that the only options for land use are either grazing or suburban development.
Here’s one thing you can do: Watch and share this video from Our Changing Climate that breaks down why grass-fed beef isn’t a climate solution.
Chicago Puts Condoms in Schools
As schools prepare to return to the classroom after a year of remote learning, safety is the top priority. Chicago Public Schools aren’t just thinking about pandemic safety with masks and hand sanitizer — the district will also stock their schools with condoms. Under a new policy, every CPS school that teaches fifth grade and up must provide condoms to students in easily accessible locations that also allow for privacy. Health experts see the program as an extension of existing comprehensive sex education, and they’re working to educate parents on the importance of providing resources to prevent teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.
CPS sexual-health policy also requires that schools provide free menstrual products in bathrooms to improve gender equity for people who miss school because they don’t have access to these products.
Here’s one thing you can do: Ask your school district to follow Chicago’s lead in making contraception more accessible. If you work for a school and would like to receive our Endangered Species Condoms, sign up here.
When the pandemic forced restaurants to shift to takeout only, the surge in disposable food and beverage containers contributed to a mountain of plastic waste. Combined with the increase in packaging and personal protective equipment, consumption of single-use plastic has increased by as much as 300% since the start of the pandemic. But plastic alone isn’t the problem — it's our throwaway culture.
Thankfully there’s a win-win solution for food service. A new report from Upstream found that reusable food-service products outperformed single-use products in every environmental measure and can save businesses money, too. It turns out that concerns about increased labor costs associated with reuse don’t pan out: Small businesses can save up to $22,000 a year by ditching single-use foodware.
Here’s one thing you can do: If you haven’t had a chance to take our survey on zero-waste messaging to help inform future campaigns, we’d love to hear from you.
Population Decline Recognized as Good News
The most recent news about declining fertility rates brought out the familiar doom-and-gloom predictions that without more babies, cities would empty and economies would collapse. But then the conversation began to shift, with more publications featuring opinions that maybe falling birth rates are actually good news. People began to proclaim — rightly — that fewer babies would help ease pressure on the planet and make it easier to take care of the people who are already here. And as for the economy, immigrants could help fill out the workforce while we transition to more sustainable economic models.
In The Washington Post, science-fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson challenges the idea that caring for an older population is a crisis, writing, “It sounds like full employment to me.” And in a recent op-ed in The Guardian, science journalist Laura Spinney points out that we need solutions to the climate crisis and demographic changes, “but they don’t have to look like babies.”
Here’s one thing you can do: Add your voice to the conversation by sending an op-ed or letter to the editor to your local newspaper. Watch our Population 101 video for tips on how to write an opinion piece.
Wildlife Spotlight: Scalloped Hammerhead Shark
Scalloped hammerhead sharks are distinctive among an already unforgettable group of sharks, with notches across the front of their broad, hammer-shaped heads. Those big heads come in handy to locate prey buried in the seafloor and pin stingrays to the bottom of the ocean. Scalloped hammerheads are social animals, known for forming huge schools with hundreds of sharks, though their numbers are dwindling.
Overfishing and shark finning have put at least 25% of shark species at risk of extinction, including scalloped hammerheads. Although this hammerhead species is protected by the Endangered Species Act and recognized as “critically endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, thousands of tons of hammerheads are caught by the Mexican fishing industry each year. Last year the Center filed a groundbreaking lawsuit to get scalloped hammerheads and two other hammerhead species protected under Mexico’s equivalent of the Endangered Species Act.
Center for Biological Diversity
P.O. Box 710
Tucson, AZ 85702