We can all take notice of our environment. We can learn how our planet works. We can learn how to live on it without making a mess of it. We can help to keep it magnificent for ourselves, our children and grandchildren, and other living things besides us.
You can help by growing your own vegetables and fruits. You can help by planting a tree. Your new plants and trees will help to remove the greenhouse gas CO2 from the air. If you grow some of your own food, you will also help to prevent more CO2 from entering the air from the fossil-fuel-burning trucks, planes, and ships that transport your food to you from far away.
How can I reduce my "carbon footprint"?
Your carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide released into the air because of your own energy needs. You need transportation, electricity, food, clothing, and other goods. Your choices can make a difference.
Swap old incandescent light bulbs for the new compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). They use only 25% as much electricity to give the same light. They last ten times longer.
Turn off lights, TVs, computers, when you do not need them.
Unplug! Any electronic gadget you can turn on with a remote (TV, DVD player, Nintendo, Xbox) uses power even when it is "off." Appliances with a digital clock (like a coffee maker) or a power adapter (like a laptop computer) also suck power like a sneaky vampire. Plug these kinds of things into a surge protector or power strip that has an on/off switch. Then you can shut off all the power without unplugging each gadget. There are even power strips that glow to show you how much power is going through them, and power strips you can control from your computer or iPhone.
Turn up the thermostat on the air conditioning when it's hot. Use fans if you're still hot. They use much less power.
Turn down the thermostat on the heating when it's cold. Sweaters, blankets, and socks are good for you and better for the planet.
Walk or ride your bike instead of taking a car everywhere, or carpool. Even a 2-mile car trip puts 2 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere. Bikes are a great form of green transportation. Sometimes, in the big city with lots of traffic, they are even faster than cars.
Stay out of the drive thru! When you go to a fast-food place, ask your driver to park the car and let you walk inside, rather than sitting in a line of cars with the engine running and polluting.
How can I reduce my trash pile?
Use reusable grocery bags.
Recycle everything you can. If your city does not pick up recycled materials, find out who you can talk to about starting this service. You should be recycling paper, aluminum cans, cardboard, food cans, plastic, glass, newspapers, magazines, junk mail, phone books, and anything else made of paper.
Shop thrift stores.
"BYOM" (Bring Your Own Mug.)
Use less paper whenever possible. Save the trees.
Drink tap water—filtered—instead of bottled water. Carry your drinking water in a reusable bottle. Plastic water bottles are an environmental disaster.
Use fewer containers. Buy the product that uses less packaging material. Even if you recycle packaging materials, it takes energy to create them in the first place and energy to remake them into something else.
Do I need to save water too?
People and animals in many parts of the world do not have clean, safe water to drink. As many more regions are hit by drought, this problem will become even more serious. The sooner we start conserving water, the better off we all will be. Be aware of how much water you use.
Imagine you live in a recreational vehicle (RV), and your water tank holds only 50 gallons. Every time you turn on the water, the noisy electric water pump has to turn on too, sucking up your RV's battery power. Would you keep the water running while you brush your teeth? Would you spend 15 minutes in the shower using up all the water in the tank and depleting the battery? Would you plant a thirsty lawn in front of your RV if you were parked in the desert?
How can I make a real difference?
Go vegan. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution. It is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation industry. Factory farms are a primary driver of topsoil erosion, rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss and ocean dead zones. Raising animals for food requires massive amounts of land, food, energy, and water and causes immense animal suffering.
A plant-based diet is the most dramatic lifestyle change you can make to help save the planet and its animals. It also provides a wealth of health benefits. People who eat more vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet are likely to have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases. Vegetables provide nutrients vital for health and maintenance of your body.
Most vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories. None have cholesterol. (Sauces or seasonings may add fat, calories, and/or cholesterol.)
Vegetables are important sources of many nutrients, including potassium, dietary fiber, folate (folic acid), vitamin A, and vitamin C.
Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure. Vegetable sources of potassium include sweet potatoes, white potatoes, white beans, tomato products (paste, sauce, and juice), beet greens, soybeans, lima beans, spinach, lentils, and kidney beans.
Dietary fiber from vegetables helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease. Fiber is important for proper bowel function. It helps reduce constipation and diverticulosis. Fiber-containing foods such as vegetables help provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories.
Folate (folic acid) helps the body form red blood cells. Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant should consume adequate folate from foods, and in addition 400 mcg of synthetic folic acid from fortified foods or supplements. This reduces the risk of neural tube defects, spina bifida, and anencephaly during fetal development.
Vitamin A keeps eyes and skin healthy and helps to protect against infections.
Vitamin C helps heal cuts and wounds and keeps teeth and gums healthy. Vitamin C aids in iron absorption.
Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits may reduce risk for heart disease, including heart attack and stroke.
Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits may protect against certain types of cancers.
Diets rich in foods containing fiber, such as some vegetables and fruits, may reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
Eating vegetables and fruits rich in potassium may lower blood pressure, and may also reduce the risk of developing kidney stones and help to decrease bone loss.
Eating foods such as vegetables that are lower in calories per cup instead of some other higher-calorie food may be useful in helping to lower calorie intake.
Tips To Help You Eat Vegetables
Buy fresh vegetables in season. They cost less and are likely to be at their peak flavor.
Stock up on frozen vegetables for quick and easy cooking.
Buy vegetables that are easy to prepare. Pick up pre-washed bags of salad greens and add baby carrots or grape tomatoes for a salad in minutes. Buy packages of veggies such as baby carrots or celery sticks for quick snacks.
Use a microwave to quickly “zap” vegetables. White or sweet potatoes can be baked quickly this way.
Vary your veggie choices to keep meals interesting.
Try crunchy vegetables, raw or lightly steamed.
For The Best Nutritional Value
Select vegetables with more potassium often, such as sweet potatoes, white potatoes, white beans, tomato products (paste, sauce, and juice), beet greens, soybeans, lima beans, spinach, lentils, and kidney beans.
Sauces or seasonings can add calories, saturated fat, and sodium to vegetables. Use the Nutrition Facts label to compare the calories and % Daily Value for saturated fat and sodium in plain and seasoned vegetables.
Prepare more foods from fresh ingredients to lower sodium intake. Most sodium in the food supply comes from packaged or processed foods.
Buy canned vegetables labeled "reduced sodium," "low sodium," or "no salt added." If you want to add a little salt it will likely be less than the amount in the regular canned product.
Plan meals around a vegetable main dish, such as a vegetable stir-fry or soup.
Try a main dish salad for lunch. Go light on the salad dressing.
Include a green salad with your dinner every night.
Shred carrots or zucchini into casseroles, quick breads, and muffins.
Include chopped vegetables in pasta sauce.
Order a vegan pizza with toppings like mushrooms, green peppers, and onions, and ask for extra veggies.
Use pureed, cooked vegetables such as potatoes to thicken soups and gravies. These add flavor, nutrients, and texture.
Grill vegetable kabobs. Try tomatoes, mushrooms, green peppers, and onions.
Make Vegetables More Appealing
Many vegetables taste great with a dip or dressing. Try a low-fat, low-sugar salad dressing with raw broccoli, red and green peppers, celery sticks or cauliflower.
Add color to salads by adding baby carrots, shredded red cabbage, or spinach leaves. Include in-season vegetables for variety through the year.
Include beans or peas in flavorful mixed dishes and salads.
Decorate plates or serving dishes with vegetable slices.
Keep a bowl of cut-up vegetables in a see-through container in the refrigerator. Carrot and celery sticks are traditional, but consider red or green pepper strips, broccoli florets, or cucumber slices.
Vegetable Tips For Children
Set a good example for children by eating vegetables with meals and as snacks.
Let children decide on the dinner vegetables or what goes into salads.
Depending on their age, children can help shop for, clean, peel, or cut up vegetables.
Allow children to pick a new vegetable to try while shopping.
Use cut-up vegetables as part of afternoon snacks.
Children often prefer foods served separately. So, rather than mixed vegetables try serving two vegetables separately.
Keep It Safe
Rinse vegetables before preparing or eating them. Under clean, running water, rub vegetables briskly with your hands to remove dirt and surface microorganisms. Dry with a clean cloth towel or paper towel after rinsing.
Leopards are beautiful cats generally found in the dense, damp, forested areas of India and Southeast Asia. Once common in all parts of Africa apart from the Sahara, they have now disappeared from most parts of northern Africa (apart from a few areas of the Atlas Mountains) and are scarce in the extreme west of the continent. The leopard is under extreme threat, especially in the Middle East and southwest Asia. It is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List because it is declining in large parts of its range due to habitat loss and fragmentation, and hunting for trade and pest control. It is regionally extinct in Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuwait, Syria, Libya and Tunisia.
The European fashion for leopard skins may have diminished since the 1970s, but leopards are still killed for their skins. These crimes are often overlooked.
While it is illegal to take leopards from the wild to put in zoos, captive-bred leopards (and other animals) retain their wild instincts. They are shy creatures, used to remaining hidden and avoiding open spaces. Zoos want people to see the animals and so, in captivity, leopards are often prevented from engaging in their natural behaviors.
For just $3400, you can track and kill a leopard on a Big Game Hunting Trip. These trips are geared toward tourists. You list the animals you want to kill and the tour guides will take you to where you are likely to be able to kill them.
The bones of the leopard are used in traditional Asian medicine and are sometimes prescribed as a substitute for tiger bones in the treatment of rheumatic diseases and aching joints and muscles. Ironically, the success in controlling the trade in tiger parts may actually have led to greater risk for other cats.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Do not support any form of animal entertainment.
Do not purchase animal products.
Write to your U.S. Representative and your two U.S. Senators and tell them that you do not want your tax dollars spent on game hunting. Write to The Honorable __________, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510; The Honorable __________, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. 20515.
Write to the conservation organizations that you want to support and ask them about their policies regarding game hunting and animal entertainment. Spend your well-intentioned donation wisely.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program spends millions of taxpayer dollars to inhumanely kill as many as 100,000 wild predators annually. More accurately described by its former name, Animal Damage Control, Wildlife Services spends millions of dollars each year to kill thousands of wild animals (like coyotes, foxes, and badgers) in the name of protecting crops, livestock, private property, and "natural resources" such as birds who are endangered or favored by hunters.
The methods used to kill these animals include shooting from helicopters and airplanes, trapping, poisoning and denning (poisoning pups in their dens). Trapping and poisoning injure or kill "non-target" animals such as deer, birds, and companion animals—even endangered species. All this, despite the development of non-lethal methods to protect livestock and crops, and evidence that killing predators doesn't even solve the problem.
Coyotes and other predators provide easy scapegoats for the many difficulties faced by ranchers, and an easy target for Wildlife Services. But overall, predators account for a small percentage of livestock losses. The vast majority of livestock loss is caused by disease, severe weather and difficulty during calving or lambing. While coyotes and foxes are blamed for bird population declines, in most cases, habitat loss and/or fragmentation is the real culprit. Once this has taken place, these populations are more vulnerable to predation by other wild animals.
Though lethal predator control may seem a simple solution, reducing predator populations only occasionally increases bird population increases, and then only for a short time. Such increases require continued and widespread lethal predator control, continuing the cycle of cruelty without ever tackling the actual problem.
Changing livestock husbandry practices and adopting non-lethal strategies can go a long way toward reducing or eliminating predator-caused livestock losses over the long term.
Husbandry practices include:
bringing sheep into a barn during lambing (when they are especially vulnerable)
corralling livestock at night
removing livestock carcasses before they attract coyotes, bears, or other predators.
Non-lethal means of reducing livestock depredations include:
aversive conditioning of attacking predators.
Finally, improving and preserving habitat, as well as installing fencing that excludes predators, are long-term, inexpensive solutions that will serve both people and wildlife.
Every year, millions of animals suffer and die in painful tests to determine the "safety" of cosmetics and household products. Substances ranging from eye shadow and soap to furniture polish and oven cleaner are tested on rabbits, rats, guinea pigs, dogs, and other animals, despite the fact that test results do not help prevent or treat human illness or injury.
In eye irritancy tests, a liquid, flake, granule, or powdered substance is dropped into the eyes of a group of albino rabbits. The animals are often immobilized in stocks from which only their heads protrude. They usually receive no anesthesia during the tests. After placing the substance in the rabbits' eyes, laboratory technicians record the damage to the eye tissue at specific intervals over an average period of 72 hours, with tests sometimes lasting 7 to 18 days. Reactions to the substances include swollen eyelids, inflamed irises, ulceration, bleeding, massive deterioration, and blindness. During the tests, the rabbits' eyelids are held open with clips. Many animals break their necks as they struggle to escape. The results of eye irritancy tests are questionable, as they vary from laboratory to laboratory-and even from rabbit to rabbit.
Acute toxicity tests, commonly called lethal dose or poisoning tests, determine the amount of a substance that will kill a percentage, even up to 100 percent, of a group of test animals. In these tests, a substance is forced by tube into the animals' stomachs or through holes cut into their throats. It may also be injected under the skin, into a vein, or into the lining of the abdomen; mixed into lab chow; inhaled through a gas mask; or introduced into the eyes, rectum, or vagina. Experimenters observe the animals' reactions, which can include convulsions, labored breathing, diarrhea, constipation, emaciation, skin eruptions, abnormal posture, and bleeding from the eyes, nose, or mouth.
The widely used lethal dose 50 (LD50) test was developed in 1927. The LD50 testing period continues until at least 50 percent of the animals die, usually in two to four weeks. Like eye irritancy tests, lethal dose tests are unreliable at best. Says Microbiological Associates' Rodger D. Curren, researchers looking for non-animal alternatives must prove that these in vitro models perform "at least as well as animal tests. But as we conduct these validation exercises, it's become more apparent that the animal tests themselves are highly variable." The European Center for the Validation of Alternative Methods' Dr. Michael Ball puts it more strongly: "The scientific basis" for animal safety tests is "weak."
No law requires animal testing for cosmetics and household products. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires only that each ingredient in a cosmetics product be "adequately substantiated for safety" prior to marketing or that the product carry a warning label indicating that its safety has not been determined. The FDA does not have the authority to require any particular product test. Likewise, household products, which are regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the agency that administers the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA), do not have to be tested on animals. A summary of the CPSC's animal-testing policy, printed in the Federal Register, states, "[I]t is important to keep in mind that neither the FHSA nor the Commission's regulations require any firm to perform animal tests. The statute and its implementing regulations only require that a product be labeled to reflect the hazards associated with that product."
Testing methods, therefore, are determined by manufacturers. The very unreliability of animal tests may make them appealing to some companies, since these tests allow manufacturers to put virtually any product on the market. Companies can also use the fact that their products were tested to help defend themselves against consumer lawsuits. Others believe that testing on animals helps them compete in the marketplace. Consumers demand products with exciting new ingredients, such as alpha-hydroxy acids, and animal tests are often considered the easiest and cheapest way to "prove" that new ingredients are "safe."
Such arguments carry little weight with the more than 500 manufacturers of cosmetics and household products that have shunned animal tests. These companies take advantage of the many alternatives available today, including cell cultures, tissue cultures, corneas from eye banks, and sophisticated computer and mathematical models. Companies can also formulate products using ingredients already determined to be safe by the FDA. Most cruelty-free companies use a combination of methods to ensure safety, such as maintaining extensive databases of ingredient and formula information and employing in vitro tests and human clinical studies.
Caring consumers also play a vital role in eliminating cruel test methods. Spurred by public outrage, the European Union (EU) banned cosmetics tests on animals. In the United States, a survey by the American Medical Association found that 75 percent of Americans are against using animals to test cosmetics. Hundreds of companies have responded by switching to animal-friendly test methods. To help consumers identify products that are truly cruelty-free, a coalition of national animal protection groups has developed the Corporate Standard of Compassion for Animals, which clarifies the non-animal-testing terminology and procedures used by manufacturers and makes available a cruelty-free logo for companies that are in compliance with the standard. Shoppers can support this initiative by purchasing products that comply with the corporate standard and boycotting those that don't and by asking local stores to carry cruelty-free items.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Everyone seeking to stop animal tests should urge government regulatory agencies and trade associations to accept non-animal test methods immediately. Never buy cosmetics and household products tested on animals.
The best way to persuade others to adopt humane and responsible lifestyles is to set a good example. Think realistically about how you're going to fit environmental and animal activism into your life. You may have a full-time job and may have to juggle time with family and friends. Can you re-plan your schedule or transfer some duties to a coworker, spouse, or someone else to allow yourself time to focus on animal and environmental activities? Maybe you can incorporate some animal and environmental work into the church, office, family or political activities you're already involved in. You do not want to overextend yourself in a blaze of glory, only to burn out in six months. Think carefully about how you're going to schedule activism into your daily routine so that it will become a part of your life and not an intrusion.
PICK YOUR PASSION
Figure out what earth and animal issue(s) you are most passionate about. Passion often comes from a sudden realization that changes your life forever. Once the realization hits you, it is what will stoke the embers of your earth and animal activism, even at the lowest points when you sometimes feel like giving up. Once you are aware of something in the world that you believe needs changed, that awareness will motivate you constantly and cause you to see the need everywhere, bringing a sense of responsibility with it.
As you read and learn more about animal and environmental issues, start choosing the ones that mean the most to you. The issues are so widespread you cannot possibly address all of them. You can focus on projects that will help the greatest number of animals, such as those involving animals used in laboratories or saving the animals of the rainforests, or that will help change the fundamental attitudes of large numbers of people. Or you can focus on specific issues or animal cruelty cases.
You do not need to "know it all" to start getting active, but before you can educate others effectively you need to know some basic facts. Visit your local library and bookstores for books and videos on the issues that interest you, and research your issues online. Become familiar with the people and facilities in your area. You'll want to be able to make ethical recommendations to people who may come to you with questions in the future. As you compile facts, resources, and other materials, keep your information organized. File important or useful information according to the issues they concern. Keep the names and addresses of good veterinarians, shelters, low-cost spay/neuter programs and wildlife rescue services for easy reference.
Research existing efforts. Your chosen cause likely already has action taking place at the local, regional, national or international level. Find out what activism is already taking place, and where you fit in. See if you can liaise with existing efforts and consider how you will join in or bolster existing efforts independently. Ask yourself these questions: Do you want to volunteer with or join the board of an existing group? Do you want to find a paid job with an earth or animal activist organization? If you're working at the local level, does a national organization have resources you can use? Where you find no existing efforts, avoid seeing this as a mammoth task of insurmountable proportions. Instead, break it down into small pieces. Aim to get other like-minded people on board. This is easier now than ever before with modern communication tools such as the internet.
Also educate yourself about activism. One of the most inspiring and helpful means for getting more deeply involved in activism is to read broadly in the field of activism. In particular, seek out books written by prominent activists who share wisdom derived from personal experience. Then, read widely within the cause itself, to both understand the issues clearly and to learn about the tactics, ideas, experiences, wins and losses and other useful information from those who have already been active in this cause.
The point of environmental and animal activism is to educate, raise awareness and make people passionate about an issue. Though you can do some of this on your own, especially through the internet, the news media is an invaluable tool when used well. Get in touch with folks who know how to craft press releases, write an editorial and contact the press.
Know the legislative, administrative and judicial processes of your country and/or region. Research your city, county and state environmental and animal laws. Knowing how to effect change to laws and how to make the most of the legislative system is important for every activist.
DETERMINE WHAT YOU CAN DO
Figure out what you can do for your chosen cause. Whether your cause is animal rights, the environment, wildlife issues, the local community garden, or the global economic system, it's important to have specific ideas about how you can contribute. Figure out which skills and resources you can devote to the cause, and how much time you want to dedicate.
While it is great to think big, it's also important to think small and gradual. Incremental change can be as important, and often more enduring, than massive change that happens quickly and disrupts people in a major way. Think through all the possibilities for slowly unleashing change through your school, workplace, community, town, region, country or the world. Decide whether you're a radical activist or a reformer activist. The radical activist is someone who needs to continue pushing for fundamental change and will use such means as protests, boycotts, alternative summits, etc., and generally tends to be wary of those people who sit in the institutions they want changed. A reformist is happy to work with those in the institutions they'd like to see changed, using tools of democracy to work within the existing structure to force social or political progress.
CHOOSE YOUR COURSE OF ACTION
Choose your method of activism. While activism can take hundreds of forms, approach this as being about utilizing your own talents and resources as best you can. You are in the best position to decide how you can achieve your goals as an earth and animal activist, along with the time frame, and whether or not you go it alone.
Do you want to work solo? Being an individual activist is easier now than ever, as you can use forums, videos, photos, websites, blogs, social networking and even advertising to get your message across. On the downside, being the only person working on the issue can be lonely, and it's a lot of work. Sometimes it may cause you to question whether you're on the right track or whether it's worth pursuing.
Do you want to work with others? You could join an existing group or start your own and request collaborators. One of the advantages of being part of a group is the extended power, resources, networks and passion involved. You may also want to collaborate loosely without putting together a permanent structure, for example by inviting collaborators to post on a group blog or a biannual zine.
Would you like to contribute to your cause through writing, teaching, speaking, planning events or art? Or perhaps you're great with website building, blogging or podcasts? Assess your talents realistically, along with the time and resources you have available.
Be willing to put in the work without immediate rewards. In many cases earth and animal activists work for years on a project without seeing the major change they want to bring about. Laws, social norms and other factors can make it very difficult to enact immediate change. It is wise to understand the possibility that during your lifetime you could be paving the way for eventual change, but you may not see it actually occur. Understanding this can help alleviate a sense of frustration, doom and resentment about your cause.
BEGIN TO SPEAK OUT
Speak up about your opinions. Environmental and animal activism starts with the everyday conversations you have with friends, your family and new people you meet. When you're passionate about something, it's hard to stop talking about it, so express yourself freely and engage people in serious conversations about your cause. Aim to educate people and help them get involved.
Be bold. Don't hesitate to walk up to the girl reading an animal magazine in the coffee shop–she might be looking for the group you're starting. But don't force your opinions on people who are averse to hearing them. After you've made your point, people might need time to digest what they've learned. Don't expect everyone to hop on board with your cause right away. Plant a seed and hope it grows.
GROW YOUR CAUSE
Once you've learned the ropes of being an earth and animal activist, you might want to start your own group and become an organizer. Doing outreach on your own is a great way to help the earth and animals, but forming a local group can increase your effectiveness and your clout. The media, the government, and the public will often give more serious consideration to the views of a group.
You will need to gather committed people together and create a solid plan of action. Decide from the beginning what your goal is: Do you want to stage a variety of actions to achieve a particular achievable goal, and then disband when it's achieved? Do you want to form a permanent group that works on different projects surrounding a particular topic? Or do you only want to work together for a single action, for example to coordinate a protest or fundraising effort?
Call your first meeting and discuss tactics. At this meeting, you should decide who will be responsible for which tasks, what your group’s goals are, and how often you want to meet. Be open to new ideas, and encourage people to express themselves.
Put your goals in writing and sketch out a basic plan that highlights what you need, what you want to achieve and some of the big steps that will be necessary to achieve your goals. Consider creating a website or social media page to keep track of your group's goals and members. If you want the group to stay together for a long time, you'll need a good name. Register your name with your local, state and federal governments to establish a unique identity.
Hold regular meetings to enable you to track your goals and coordinate everyone's efforts towards the common project. Set meeting dates well in advance and publicize them widely. Make sure you have a location reserved in advance, whether it's a physical place or a virtual meeting technology like conference calls or a chat room. Possible meeting locations include classrooms, the public library, someone's house, the park, municipal/community building, teen center, community center, coffee shop/cafe, church hall, etc.
If many people are involved in your group or have signed on as temporary volunteers, it may be helpful to form subcommittees. These can be useful for large groups that are doing multiple projects or staging multiple actions with the same goal. Here are some examples of subcommittees that you might need:
Public Relations: This subcommittee does all of the canvassing, handles advertising, books tables, creates banners and posters, and serves as a press contact to drum up media attention.
Outreach: This subcommittee liaises with other organizations, local businesses and anyone that might be able to support your cause through advertising, funding, in-kind donations of space or food, etc.
Logistics: This subcommittee takes care of all practical matters such as scheduling, booking performers, finding needed equipment and services, getting necessary permits, arranging for parking, taking care of food, etc.
Financial: This subcommittee keeps track of the budget and makes sure everything runs smoothly where money is concerned. Tasks include creating a budget, paying performers and service providers, setting any event prices, arranging for donations and identifying pre-event fundraising needs.
Learn how to message effectively. One thing that distresses time-poor, financially-tight, and already overworked people is being told that what they are doing is wrong. This kind of messaging is bound to make people bite the messenger and turn away from the message. As such, while maintaining your passion, also maintain a sense of courtesy, respect and a basic understanding of motivational psychology. In a nutshell, nobody likes being told that how they're living is wrong and surely you don't either. Instead, focus on enlightening people about societal and individual practices that have outlived their usefulness and provide alternatives that are realistic and obtainable. Have an affirmative vision, one that shows what you are for, not just what you're against. Remember that fear is at the heart of much resistance. Fear of job loss and lifestyle downgrading are two particular fears that drive much resistance to activist messaging. If you're not offering alternatives that are viable, doable and respecting of the people who may be impacted, don't be surprised if they resent your call for change.
Create a whole vision rather than a piecemeal one. How do you envisage a future in which the changes you are advocating for have happened? Paint that vision for everyone and let them imagine themselves in it. Make plans for the future. A good activist thinks into the future, imagining life after the goals have been met. What happens next? Will the change you bring about need constant maintenance? Or will it be self-sustainable? Thinking about this in advance may well change your tactics if you're concerned that just creating change isn't enough.
Learn how to raise money. Though you can do activism on your own dime, there are few kinds of activism that don't require money. Artists need supplies, bloggers need hosting plans, lone protesters need signs. Some forms of activism might even attract grant money, if you know how to write a proposal. Consider using merchandise for additional fundraising. You can sell t-shirts, host a bake sale, or sell related books on the issue you're addressing.
Strong organization from the top down (or the bottom up) will ensure that everything runs smoothly. Don't forget to document your steps, adjust your plans as time goes by and communicate frequently.
When working with others, consider the needs of the group. Be willing to compromise on the details, if not on your core values.
SPREAD YOUR MESSAGE
Leafleting is one of the best ways to educate people about earth and animal issues. It’s not only easy but also effective! Put the right information in the right hands and minds are changed. Create a flyer containing essential information about your cause, the name of your organization, the time and date you meet and anything else you want people to know. Hang the flyers around school, the neighborhood, community bulletin boards, inside coffee shops or cafes. In addition to flyers, you can pass out buttons, postcards, bumper stickers or other materials to help spread the word about what you're doing. These items are available from established organizations, or you can create your own. As you pass out your materials, be willing to answer people's questions and get into discussions about your cause.
Tabling—or setting up a table with resources about earth and animal issues—is an effective way to engage the public and provide information about environmental and animal issues. See if you can rent a table or setup a table for free in a school, university or somewhere local like outside of the supermarket or in the park. Have a sign-up list, information about your organization and colorful posters to attract people. Having free stuff to hand out, like stickers or bumper stickers, attracts people to your table. Be ready to educate people who stop and want to learn more about environmental and animal issues. By educating yourself on the issues before you go, you’ll be ensuring that answering questions will be a snap. Use the literature on your table to supplement your answers. The issues facing the earth and animals are deep and complex, so don’t worry if you don’t know the answer to a tough question. Simply get the person’s contact information and offer to have someone get back to him or her.
Sponsor a speaker in your community. Get in touch with someone of note who is working for the same cause. An author, a professor, the head of a nonprofit or an activist musician are all good choices. Make plans to host the speaker at a local community event space, then publicize the event using flyers, advertising and social media. A local school or university, a bookstore, a concert venue or a community center are all good places to host a speaker. Be sure to have literature to hand out at the event, and provide a sign-up sheet to get people's email addresses so you can let them know about the next event you organize.
Holding a demonstration is a fun, effective and easy way to alert people to earth and animal issues. It’s one of the easiest ways to reach a lot of people, and if your event is covered by the media, you have the potential to reach thousands more. Decide what form of demonstration to hold. Choose where it will take place. Get people interested and signed up. Get permission from the relevant people, whether that is local councils or a particular body like a university. Get the necessary permits if required. Talk to the media to get the word out to get people to come to the demonstration. Appoint a group of volunteers that will help manage the event. Make posters, flyers, visual aids or pamphlets to help spread your message and communicate your concerns to others. On the demonstration day, make sure everyone remains calm and demonstrates peacefully and respectfully. Hold your signs so they can be read easily (and you aren’t hiding your faces) and ask people to refrain from talking on the phone or texting. Have the majority of the people holding signs and waving at cars but have a select group handing out leaflets to people who are passing by. Remember to smile and be polite. You’ll change more people’s minds by being respectful and having engaged conversations, as opposed to yelling at them or intimidating them. If the police do arrive, calmly tell them that you already have your permit (or that you were told you didn’t need one). After the demo, remember to collect all your materials so that there isn’t any litter and get everyone’s contact information for future events.
Work with the media to spread your message. Make a database of key media outlets in your area. Start locally, then expand the list to regional and even national media. Include newspapers, television programs, websites and radio stations. Introduce yourself to local reporters and give them a copy of all your publications and a free ticket to any events you organize. Pitch story ideas as they come up pertaining to a relevant and timely issue with a human interest angle in mind. Make time for reporters and be accessible. Don't be afraid to give out your cell phone number. If a reporter cannot reach you with one phone call, he most likely will move on to an alternative source for his story. Be accurate, trustworthy and prepared. When a reporter asks a question, she wants an immediate answer. If there's no way you can answer immediately, ask the reporter when her deadline is. Be sure to get back to her as soon as possible. Send press kits or releases to a specific contact at a news organization. Press kits and releases are not as effective as making a call to a reporter, but they are a good way to send background information on your agency. Include your business card so reporters can keep your contact information on file. Thank reporters when you are satisfied with the stories they write. Reporters rarely receive praise.
NOT EVERYONE WILL AGREE WITH YOUR CAUSE
Expect to encounter dissent. Change worries most people and can cause them to react in ways that are not always considerate or constructive. It's not uncommon for an activist promoting a cause to deal with varying levels of negativity. The important thing is to brace yourself and stay strong in the face of people who disagree with you.
If you experience dissent from people within the cause, it is good to self-question and examine their reasons more closely. See if they actually have a point and seek to re-examine your approach in the light of their dissent. This doesn't necessarily mean you need to change your approach, but it does mean that keeping an open mind will ultimately make your cause stronger.
Dissent from outside the cause is to be expected. You're challenging the status quo. You will go through many experiences, including having people question your knowledge/authority/facts/respect and even your sanity on occasion. Keep calm and keep a level head. Some of the dissent will be obvious stalling, spin and covering-up tactics. Other times it will be more subtle, malicious and harmful. Know when to respond and when to keep quiet, and know when to bring your lawyer in. If you feel threatened in any way, get local authorities involved.
Don't work yourself to exhaustion. Earth and animal activists commonly experience burnout, especially when loads of passionate work don't translate into tangible change. When you're tired, worn out, and at your wit's end, that's when activism can turn negative. Take good care of yourself to prevent this from happening, since you won't be as powerful if you're feeling exhausted and bitter. Get plenty of rest. Take breaks from your activism and refresh your thoughts about where it's headed. If you find yourself feeling bitter about other people's lack of passion, take this as a warning sign to pull back and reassess your direction and purpose. Expect down times. Sometimes it will feel as if things are stagnating. Anything to do with progress meets such plateaus; knowing to expect them and learning how to ride them out is important. Break through the stagnant times by making new associations and recombining your existing approaches with new ones.
Be creative! Animal and environmental activism doesn't have to involve large events. Bloggers can be activists through their writing, teachers can be activists by encouraging students to challenge their beliefs, artists can leave guerrilla activist art around town, computer-savvy folks can arrange an e-zine, etc.
All the garbage you throw away is destined to end up in a landfill. What’s more, most of the items constituting your garbage (metal, plastic, paper, and everything else) was probably created using environmentally harmful methods. When you produce less trash, you ease up your environmental impact. Consider doing the following:
Purchase reusable products, and avoid buying new ones. Take care of, and repair, the ones you currently own. Use glass containers instead of plastic. Stop using plastic bags and opt for reusable cloth. Don’t use disposable kitchenware; use reusable items. Store your food in reusable containers and avoid plastic wrap and aluminum foil as much as possible.
Repair your clothing instead of purchasing new. Equip your most frequently used devices with rechargeable batteries. Opt for used furniture – there is a large supply of it and it costs much less than new. Don’t buy products that are packaged in several layers, when they could have been packaged in one. Almost 33 percent of our waste consists of packaging material.
Choose recycled paper. Print and copy on both sides. Reuse your folders, envelopes and paper clips. Reduce your paper mail by relying more on emails and mobile texting.
Cook your own food. And if you are up for it, grow it yourself! In any case, try to make as many meals as you can from the most basic of ingredients – which you can also buy in bulk to save on packaging.
Try making your own personal care products. Homemade soaps and shampoos are much more environmentally friendly than commercial ones that are often full of toxic chemicals. There are literally no personal care products that you can’t make on your own, including toothpaste, lotion, conditioner and shampoo. Begin by replacing one product at a time. Most homemade products have a variety of uses (IE baking soda can be used as soap, shampoo, conditioner, facial cleanser, teeth whitener and toothpaste – as well as for cleaning.)
Reduce your reliance on chemical products. Synthetic chemicals in cleaning and personal care products end up in the water supply. Because the bulk of chemicals used today are toxic, they end up harming aquatic life and waterways significantly. What’s more, these substances harm people as well, so it’s only in your best interest to reduce their usage. Also, avoid herbicides and pesticides and opt for natural ways of combating pests and weeds.
Revert to homemade cleaning products. You can make all sorts of cleaners – in fact all of your cleaning products – with natural-only ingredients. Read up on how to make alternative cleaning products that exclude harmful chemicals. For instance, you can do your basic cleaning using a 50-50 solution of water and white vinegar, that works just as well as most conventional cleaners on the market. Virtually all your cleaning can be accomplished with baking soda, vinegar and water. You help protect the environment, your health, and save a lot of money.
When there are no reliable alternatives to a harmful item, try to use the minimum amount needed. By doing so, you help the planet and also help your wallet.
Conservation of endangered species may sound like a job for politicians and scientists. A problem of such proportions seems impossible to be tackled by the average person. But you can make a significant impact by adopting some simple habits; and if we all do the same, we have the power to protect endangered animals all over the world. Here are 10 ways you can make a difference for endangered species:
Reduce And Reuse
Reuse items in your household when you can, and buy products that produce less packaging waste. By purchasing second-hand furniture, clothes, electronics, and toys, you help reduce the energy consumption required to make new ones and produce less waste as well. Choose reusable bottles for beverages whenever you can. Use a reusable bag for your groceries, and carry your own container to the restaurant for the leftovers.
Don’t Use Harsh Chemicals In Your Household
Toxic chemicals used in laundry, housecleaning, dish washing and personal care products end up in underground waters, poisoning aquatic life and any animals that feed on them. Choose non-toxic products, or make your own.
Dispose Of Waste Properly
Recycle plastics, paper, metal cans and glass. When you take out your trash, see that the bag is sealed safely so you don’t litter by accident. Dangerous compounds such as car fluids, paint, bleach, batteries, pesticides, and other chemical substances should be disposed of properly at a specialized facility.
Prevent Soil Erosion
Take all necessary measures to prevent soil erosion and protect water resources close by used by wild animals. When you clear out vegetation, you must take all necessary precautions that any loose sediment is kept away from natural waterways, as it would consume all oxygen from the water and disrupt the habitat of the stream bed.
Maintain A Healthy Backyard Habitat
Populate your yard with native plants and ask the extension agent of your local community to help you fight off any invasive plant species. Replace toxic pesticides and herbicides with safer options. Sterilize bird feeders and baths often to stop diseases from spreading. Prevent wild animals from raiding pet bowls and trash cans by bringing pet food indoors overnight and securing your garbage in safely closed bins.
Support An Organization That Fights To Save Endangered Species
If you care a lot about saving a particular endangered habitat or species, seek out an organization who is on a mission that accommodates your concerns. Volunteer, donate or materialize your support by adopting your favorite endangered species.
Advocate For Conservation
Start studying about how you can assist in pressuring government officials on issue policies and decisions regarding endangered species. Stay informed on how to effectively engage in civilian advocacy by signing up to relevant newsletters.
Become a member of the League of Conservation Voters, a national non-profit that works toward turning environmental values into the nation’s priorities by promoting the adoption of fair environmental policies and electing candidates with eco-friendly views who will take ownership of, and implement, these policies.
Lead By Example
As you gain more insight about how to protect endangered wildlife, you will become more capable of conveying that knowledge to other people. It is more efficient to share your own relevant efforts and experiences with your friends and family, than simply flooding them with dos and don’ts. To lead by example is the most effective way to show people how to start changing their lives.
Reduce Or Remove Meat, Dairy And Eggs From Your Diet
The one action with the most pronounced impact on the preservation of the environment is to become a vegan. Animal farming is the number one cause of water consumption, pollution, and deforestation. Livestock has a higher greenhouse effect on the atmosphere than fossil fuel consumption. The farming industry is the principle cause of rainforest demise, soil erosion, habitat loss, species extinction and dead zones in the oceans. Enormous amounts of food, water, energy, and land are required to raise animals for food, on top of the immense animal suffering it causes. By opting to consume exclusively plant-based food, you aid in the rescue of our planet, while easing animal suffering at the same time.
Habitat loss and the extinction of species are devastating consequences of irresponsible human actions. The problem’s complexity and reach often leads people to feel unable to make a difference. However, every single action we take is crucial in bringing about change. Although individually our contribution may seem small, the sum of our efforts can really make a huge difference.
Protect Wildlife Habitat
The most pressing issue that threatens species is their progressive loss of habitat. Animal agriculture, deforestation, and development impact the environment in profound ways: erosion, soil compaction, desertification and changes in climate. When the land is manipulated in such a manner, wildlife habitat alteration or even elimination takes place. This is more pronounced when rare species are involved; these alterations may result in the rapid extinction of the species. Habitat protection ensures that whole animal communities are safe, which in turn leads to fewer interventions needed towards the conservation of endangered species. Reserves, parks, and similar protected areas are often the only safe havens that remain unaffected by habitat loss.
Consume Less, Recycle More
A great way to minimize our effect on the environment is to recycle and reuse as much as possible. Consuming less is an immensely effective means of protecting the planet. What’s more, by reducing our energy consumption we help conserve our natural resources, and we save money in the process!
Become Member Of A Conservation Organization
Numerous conservation organizations exist with a mission to protect endangered species and habitats. Each organization has a different mission – for some it’s to safeguard a certain habitat or species, for others to push for the legislation of good environmental practices. If you are particularly interested in a topic, chances are that you will find an organization that shares your interest. Becoming a member will let you back organized, constant efforts towards protecting wildlife and habitats. Moreover, there are often special programs available that offer the chance to do conservation field work, as many organizations depend on volunteer work.
Use Fewer Herbicides And Pesticides
Herbicides and pesticides are effective in beautifying your backyard, but they wreak havoc on wildlife on several levels. Some of these compounds degrade at an extremely slow rate, which means their levels build up in the soil and, consequently, pass into the food chain. Certain animal groups, like the amphibians, are especially prone to the toxic effects of these chemicals, suffering a greater impact.
Prevent Invasive Species From Spreading
Native wildlife populations all over the world have been severely affected by the invasion of non-native species, since the latter increase competition for food and habitat. Native species may even become their direct prey, risking extinction. You can minimize the impact of invasive species by populating your garden with native plants.
Don’t Drive Too Fast
For many native species, life takes place in densely populated areas, meaning they have to find their way through a labyrinth of human-made dangers. Roads, in particular, pose one of the greatest risks for wild animals that live in developed areas, because they split their habitat and pose a constant threat to animals that try to cross to the other side. So, if you are driving in such areas, reduce your speed and pay attention for such animals.
Install Decals On Windows To Prevent Bird Collisions
Collisions with windows is a serious risk for birds. Almost one billion birds lose their lives every year by colliding with windows. A simple way of decreasing that number is by installing decals on the windows of your office and home. Other things you can do to help is to relocate bird feeders to a more convenient spot, draw curtains and shades when it’s bright outside, install screens on the external side of your windows, or use tinted window glass.
Express Your Concerns And Become Actively Involved
By actively expressing your concerns regarding endangered species to local and national authorities, you raise the chances of someone actually doing something to remedy the situation.
Share Your Excitement For Nature And Wildlife
Motivate other people to read up on wildlife issues, respect wildlife, and be serious about the protection of species and habitats.
Last but not least, the single most effective way of helping wildlife is to adopt a vegan diet. Animal farming is the number one cause of water consumption, pollution, and deforestation. Livestock has a higher greenhouse effect on the atmosphere than fossil fuel consumption. The farming industry is the greatest cause of rainforest demise, soil erosion, habitat loss, species extinction and dead zones in the oceans.
Overpopulation is not what's bringing about ecological catastrophe; overconsumption is. Overconsumption is the state where consumption surpasses the planet’s natural replenishing capabilities.
Living and consuming are interconnected activities. You can’t live without consuming. Water, food and air are consumed to support life. But we also consume much more than essentials, including goods and services such as electronics, furniture, appliances, cars, books, entertainment, and travel. There seems to be no end to the list of items and services we can’t live without.
Nowadays, we buy mainly to draw emotional satisfaction rather than meeting our actual needs. Advertising creates virtual problems and triggers negative feelings about them; then, it conveniently presents you with a solution. This cycle results in a deterioration of the quality of life, overworking, and overconsuming, which also damages the environment significantly.
Corporations manipulate consumers. They promise us privileges, connection, and happiness, which makes us keep buying more and more. The message’s effectiveness is so high that, despite being left in debt, overstressed, and buried under tons of possessions, we continue wanting more. But, worse of all, our overconsumption is based on our society’s reliance on it. The modern Western economy relies on us consuming more, so it focuses on fueling our wants and desires, and encourages us to upgrade more, buy more, waste more and pollute more.
Consuming Consequences To The Environment
This unrelenting consumption does not come free of charge. The natural world provides everything we consume, through mining, extraction, farming, and forestry – and there is a limit on the planet’s resources. As we keep consuming more and more, pursuing an elusive “comfortable” life, the planet is overstressed by this over-exploitation of soil, water, minerals, forests, fish, etc. As a result, species, habitats, and even entire ecosystems are collapsing. What’s more, with increased consumption comes more waste and pollution, compromising the quality of life’s very basic elements: air, water and land.
Consumption Consequences For Societies
Wealthier nations consume the biggest share of the Earth’s resources, depriving others of their fair share. 80 percent of the planet’s resources are consumed by a mere 17 percent of the total population. Valuable resources flow from the Earth’s South to the North. We exploit and use these resources to create services and goods for a small percentage of the population, instead of utilizing them to ensure that the rest of the world also has access to the essentials for life, such as water, food, health and sanitation. To satisfy the virtual needs of the rich, valuable resources are used up to produce meaningless items of luxury, further increasing the gap with the poor.
An Ecological Footprint measures the impact of a person or community on the environment, expressed as the amount of land required to sustain their use of natural resources. Natural resources provide the materials for everything we use for our day to day activities and needs. The Eco-Footprint, calculated in acres or hectares, expresses how much bio-productive space a defined population needs to sustain its current levels of life and consumption.
The following resources are factored into the measurement:
Arable Land Required: how much land is needed for growing crops for fiber, food, animal feed, etc.
Forest Resources: the resources required for furniture, fuel, houses, etc., and for ensuring the ecosystems are secured from climate change and erosion.
Ocean Resources: water required for fish and related products.
Pasture Land Required: how much land is needed to raise animals for meat, dairy production, hides, etc.
Energy Costs: the amount of land needed to absorb carbon dioxide emissions and other waste products.
Infrastructure Needed: how much land is required for transportation and creating factories, houses, etc.
Land, water and air pollution, and species extinction, are not yet factored in for the calculation of this Eco-footprint.
The planet has a biocapacity of about 4.7 acres (1.9 hectares) per individual. On a global scale, we currently use 5.4 acres (2.2 hectares) per individual. This means that we have surpassed the Earth’s sustainable biocapacity by 15 percent, a deficit of 1 acre (0.3 hectares) per individual. This deficit is self-evident by the cascading failure of the natural ecosystems –oceans, forests, fisheries, rivers, coral reefs, water, soil, global warming, etc.
It is possible to estimate the Eco-Footprint for a single person, a city, a region, a country, and the whole world. Several countries are in the “red zone”, meaning they have a larger Ecological Footprint than their ecosystems’ biocapacity, putting them into an “ecological deficit.” Conversely, countries that feature a smaller Eco-Footprint than their ecosystems’ biocapacity are in “ecological reserve.”
Cities, states, and nations are put in ecological deficits by abolishing their natural resources, for example, by overfishing, with resource imports from elsewhere and by surpassing their ecosystem’s natural capacity of carbon dioxide absorption.
Overshoot is the phenomenon of the entire planet being put in an ecological deficit. Overshoot and ecological deficit are the same from a global point of view because it is impossible to import new resources to the planet.
Currently, our planet needs 1.5 years to replenish the resources we use in one year. We keep this overshoot by abolishing the planet’s resources. We have not taken seriously how big of a threat overshoot is to humanity’s future, and have not begun to address it properly.
Earth’s Ecological Limits
In contrast to the growing populations, economies and resource demands, Earth’s size doesn’t change. It is only possible to sustain an overshoot for a small window of time, after which ecosystems start degrading and collapse. Ecological overconsumption is becoming increasingly apparent in the form of desertification, deforestation, water shortages, soil erosion, reduced crop production, overgrazing, rapid extinction of species, fish declines, coral reefs collapse, and increased carbon levels in the atmosphere.
Data from the Global Footprint Network reveal that if our current level of demand remains the same, we would need a second Earth by the year 2030. Consuming at this same rate will endanger the future of large portions of the planet’s inhabitants.
It's Time To Move Beyond Recycling
Everyone must work together to reduce consumption — public and private sectors, poor and rich, men, women, and children. The one thing we all have in common is the planet we live on. However, the larger burden of responsibility to shift behaviors lies with the wealthier nations, which have to move beyond just separating metal, glass and plastic to not consuming so much of them in the first place.
More than 30 percent of the total waste in the world is produced in America, by less than 5 percent of the total population of the planet. Since we create most of the problem, we are burdened with a higher responsibility to change our behavioral pattern. If every person on the planet adopted the lifestyle of the average American, we would need five Earths.
We must rethink what consumption is, and do our best to reduce it. The planet is being destroyed by the way societies function right now. It’s not just about recycling anymore; it’s about how to stop feeding the cycle altogether.
There are many ways you can help to conserve important animals across the globe. Here are a few examples of things you can do to help support international conservation efforts:
Volunteer! Many conservation organizations depend on volunteers in your country and abroad. Do a web search to find an organization near you.
If you can't volunteer, donate. Wildlife conservation organizations require funding to carry out their critical missions of saving animals.
Wild animals do not make good “pets”, and it is illegal to buy endangered species. Wild animal belong in the wild. Rescue a companion animal from a shelter.
Learn more about threatened and endangered species and tell your friends! Lesser known species do not receive as much support as other more well-known species.
Read your labels! Palm oil plantations and animal agribusinesses are contributing to massive habitat loss around the world. Valuable forests and other ecosystems are being cleared at alarming rates. If palm oil is in your product, read the label to check if it was sustainably grown.
Be a conscious shopper when abroad. When you travel, it is important to think about what you are buying. When purchasing souvenirs or gifts for family and friends, think about where that item might have come from. Does it contain wildlife products? One of the main ways to limit the wildlife trade is to stop the demand for wildlife products. If you don’t know, don’t buy!
Be an eco-tourist and travel green. Eco-tourists are able to experience species in their natural habitat while supporting local livelihoods and conservation efforts. Sustainable and humane travel practices allow visitors to experience nature while limiting human impacts on wildlife.
Don't patronize zoos, circuses, aquariums and other forms of animal entertainment. Imprisoning wild animals for profit and human entertainment is cruel and unethical.
Buy local products and support the local economy. Support local communities’ livelihoods by purchasing unique, handcrafted goods that do not contain animal products.
If you see suspicious products, speak up. If abroad and you think you see wildlife or products derived from wildlife traded or sold illegally, let the local police or your hotel management know. If possible, warn fellow travelers in the same area.
Don't buy wildlife products, whether they are legal or illegal.
Reduce or eliminate all animal product purchases. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, habitat loss and greenhouse gases – which are the leading causes of species extinction. Make the connection.
Environmentalism is an integration of the ideology and philosophy of protecting the health of the environment and the social movement resulting from it. Issues such as conservation, preservation, ecosystem restoration, and improvement of the natural environment are foremost on the agenda of environmentalists. Concerns and threats involving the Earth's biodiversity and ecology feature at the top of the list.
To be an environmentalist, follow the simple steps given below.
1. Choose Your Cause
Discover what you are passionate about and do some research. There are a variety of environmental issues that will pique your interest. Protection of endangered species, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, avoiding wastage of natural resources, restoration of age-old landscapes, protecting forests, and encouraging recycling are some of the causes environmentalists support. Learning about environmental issues in your own locality, and taking a part in solving them, is a good way to get involved.
2. Use Your Talents
Take measure of your talents. Are you an extrovert and like to communicate verbally with people? Are you introverted and more inclined towards writing than to speaking? Do you like to communicate and spread your thoughts in words through correspondences? Are you someone who likes being out in nature? Can you play an instrument, sing, bake, paint or juggle? Your unique talents can contribute to bringing attention to, and raising funds for, environmental efforts. Consider getting involved in events, fundraisers and campaigns for conservation issues.
3. Educate Yourself, Then Educate Others
Get yourself acquainted with how the Earth works and how human activities are affecting it. To make sense out of the multitude of environmental issues and the science behind it, read magazines, books and articles, watch documentaries, and browse websites relating to nature. Share what you learn with family, friends, coworkers and associates. Use social media to spread the word on environmental issues.
4. Get Connected
Get in touch with other like-minded people or experts in the field. Getting connected with people, especially experts on the environment, is an important step on the way to becoming an environmentalist. Conduct searches on the web for people and organizations who share your thoughts and concerns. Join organizations, groups, websites and social media channels that promote your cause – or create your own. Learn from the experts and help make a bigger impact by joining forces with other people, groups and nonprofits who share your passion for environmentalism.
5. Clean Up Litter
Pick up litter wherever you go and whenever you can. Litter not only dirties roads, parks and public spaces, it also pollutes the environment. It harms wildlife that comes into contact with it. You can pickup litter on your own in your spare time, or join or organize groups to clean up large areas.
6. Go Outside
Visit places like wildlife sanctuaries, nature preserves, and parks. Support their efforts. Volunteer. Enjoy the natural beauty of these places, observe animals and their behavior, and encourage others to do the same. Communicate to people in your social circles why these protected places are important.
7. Go Native
Grow native plants in your backyard. Invasive species wreak havoc on ecosystems. Native plants are better adapted to the area where you live and need minimum caring. They are less vulnerable to pests and will benefit birds, insects and other wildlife endemic to your locality.
8. Plant Trees
The more trees you plant the more you help the environment. Trees absorb harmful CO2, prevent their emission and alleviate global warming. They provide food and shelter for wild animals. Plant trees on your property, and help plant trees in your community.
9. Go Organic
Consuming organic food and using organic gardening methods contributes towards a safer, healthier environment. Minimizing the use of pesticides and fertilizers stimulates beneficial soil organisms and results in less polluted waste-water flowing out of your garden. Moreover, it creates a much healthier environment for wildlife, your children and your companion animals.
10. Go Green
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rethink. Reduce the amount of materials you use, which reduces the amount of waste you create. Reuse materials when possible. Recycle whenever possible. Rethink the materials you use and those you throw away. By thinking about what we're using and how to reduce the wast we produce, we can help create a cleaner, healthier environment.
11. Go Without
Cut back your consumption. Water, food and air are consumed to support life. But we also consume much more than essentials, and far more than we should. There seems to be no end to the list of items and services we can’t live without. We must rethink what consumption is, and do our best to reduce it. The planet is being destroyed by the way societies function right now. It’s not just about recycling anymore; it’s about how to stop feeding the cycle altogether.
12. Eat More Veggies
Animal agriculture emits more greenhouse gases than aircrafts, automobiles and trains combined. Forests are being cleared at alarming rates to feed grains to livestock that could feed the entire human race. Less trees means less impediments to CO2 being released into the air and thus more pollution. Animal waste is producing massive amounts of toxic levels of methane and ammonia, which leads to climate change as well as acid rain. Animal agriculture is also destroying our waterways and using up our valuable water supplies. Hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals run off into rivers, lakes, streams and our drinkable water. These practices cause dead zones in the oceans, rivers and lakes. Animal farming is the leading cause of the catastrophic reduction of critical wildlife habitat, and the problem is escalating at a disturbing pace. Meat production is slated to double in another four decades. Remove or reduce meat, dairy and eggs from your diet.
"Compassionate living" is a concept based on the belief that humans have a moral responsibility to treat animals with respect, and that the interests of humans and animals should be considered equally. This means that in any decision that could potentially affect the life of an animal, that particular animal's interests should not be dismissed simply because it is inconvenient for us to consider them.
Although it may not always be easy to determine accurately the best interests of an animal, we can safely assume that animals generally prefer to live, to be free from pain and to express their natural behaviors.
The failure of humans to consider an animal's needs/interests as equal to those of humans is an expression of prejudice called speciesism. Defenders of speciesism often argue that humans are superior to other species because of their greater intelligence. Taken to its logical extreme, this argument would imply that humans with higher I.Q. scores should have more rights than humans with lower I.Q. scores. However, we have developed the sensitivity to extend basic human rights to all humans, whether or not they meet any criteria for intelligence, capacity or potential. But animals are commonly experimented on without their consent, and even killed, if it suits human purposes. This gross inequality is what we are trying to address with the concept of "animal rights."
Another common assertion is that humans are superior to animals because we possess the capacity to understand morality, as well as the ability to determine right from wrong. Since some animals may lack these same abilities, it is argued that humans are not obligated to treat them in any particular way. However, if only those who are capable of making and understanding moral judgments were to be accorded basic human rights, than infants, young children, and the severely ill or mentally challenged would be excluded. It is equally logical to affirm that, since humans are the only ones who can make moral judgments, that it is our responsibility to do so on behalf of the animals.
All animals, including humans, have the ability to experience pleasure and pain. Unfortunately, humans have tended to inflict tremendous amounts of pain and suffering on animals without any consideration of how this affects the animals themselves. By making compassionate daily choices, you can help end widespread animal abuse and exploitation.
WHAT YOU CHOOSE TO WEAR
Fur: Each year more than 40 million animals are senselessly tortured and killed to satisfy the dictates of fashion. Wild-caught fur is obtained by setting traps or snares to capture fur-bearing animals. Once an animal is caught it may remain in the trap or snare for several days starving or slowly strangling. Farm-raised fur comes from animals kept in tiny, filthy cages, deprived of adequate protection from the elements. As a result, animals develop stereotypical behavior, including pacing, head bobbing, and self-mutilation. The techniques used to kill animals on fur farms include neck snapping or "popping", electrocution with a rod shoved into the anus and gassing or smothering.
Wool: Sheep raised for wool are subjected to a lifetime of cruel treatment. Lambs' tails are chopped off and males are castrated without anesthetic. In Australia, where 80% of all wool comes from, ranchers perform an operation called "mulesing" where huge strips of skin are carved off the backs of lambs' legs. This procedure is performed to produce scarred skin that won't harbor fly larvae, so that the rancher can spend less time caring for the sheep. The shearing of sheep can be a brutal, as workers are encouraged to shear as quickly as possible. As a result, an estimated one million Australian sheep die every year from exposure. Sheep that are no longer useful for their wool are sent to crowded feedlots and then transported to the slaughterhouse.
Leather: By-products of the beef industry are defined by the parts of the cow that are not consumed by humans. These include hooves, some organs, bones, and skin. Skin (leather) accounts for about half of the by-product of the beef industry. Like meat, leather is a product made from animals that experienced the horrors of factory farming, transport and slaughter. The leather industry uses some of the most dangerous substances to prepare leather, including formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, various oils and some cyanide-based dyes.
WHAT YOU CHOOSE FOR ENTERTAINMENT
Circus: Animals used in the circus spend the majority of the year imprisoned in small cages or on chains, traveling from show to show. The training endured by circus animals is almost always based on intimidation; trainers must break the spirit of the animals in order to control them. It is not uncommon for an elephant to be tied down and beaten for several days while being trained to perform, and tigers are chained to their pedestals with ropes around their necks to choke them down.
Rodeo: Horses and cows used in rodeos are abused with electrical prods, sharp spurs and "bucking straps" that pinch their sensitive flank area. During bucking events, horses and bulls may suffer broken legs or run into the sides of the arena causing serious injury and even death. During calf-roping events, a calf may reach a running speed of 27 miles per hour before being jerked by the neck to an abrupt stop by a lasso. This event has resulted in animals' punctured lungs, internal hemorrhaging, paralysis and broken necks.
Greyhound and Horse Racing: Once greyhounds begin their racing careers, they are kept in cages for about 22-1/2 hours a day. The cages are made of wire and are barely big enough for dogs to turn around. Dogs considered too slow to race are sold to research facilities or killed (20,000-25,000 each year) - very few are adopted. More racehorses are bred than can prove profitable on the racetrack. As a result, hundreds are sent to slaughter every year.
Zoos and Aquariums: While zoos and aquariums may appear to be educational and conservation-oriented, most are designed with the needs and desires of the visitors in mind, not the needs of the animals. Many animals in zoos and aquariums exhibit abnormal behavior as a result of being deprived of their natural environments and social structures. Some zoos and aquariums do rescue some animals and work to save endangered species, but most animals in zoos were either captured from the wild or bred in captivity for the purpose of public display, not species protection. The vast majority of captive-bred animals will never be returned to the wild. When the facility breeds too many animals they become "surplus" and often are sold to laboratories, traveling shows, shooting ranches, or to private individuals unqualified to care for them.
WHAT YOU CHOOSE TO EAT
Every year billions of animals are raised and killed for human consumption. Unlike the family farms of the past, today's factory farms are high-revenue, high-production entities. On a factory farm, animals are confined to extremely small spaces, which allows farmers to concentrate on maximizing production. Because this type of overcrowding breeds disease, animals are routinely fed antibiotics and sprayed with pesticides. They are also fed growth hormones to enhance productivity. These chemicals, antibiotics and hormones are passed on to the environment, as well as to consumers of meat and dairy products.
Pork: In the United States each year more than 115 million pigs are raised on factory farms and slaughtered for human consumption. Factory-farmed pigs are raised in crowded pens which are enclosed inside huge barns. The air in these barns is filled with eye and lung burning ammonia created by urine and fecal waste collected below the floors. Breeding sows (or "animal production units") spend their lives in metal crates so small that they cannot turn around. Denied adequate space and freedom of movement, these sows often develop stereotypical behavior, repetitive movement such as head bobbing, jaw smacking, and rail biting. At the slaughterhouse, pigs are stunned (often inadequately), hung upside down before their throats are cut, and then bled to death. If workers fail to kill a pig with the knife, that pig is carried on the conveyer belt to the next station, the scalding tank, where he or she may be boiled alive.
Chicken: Every year approximately 8.785 billion chickens are raised and slaughtered for human consumption in the United States, most on factory farms. Crowded and unable to express natural behavior, chickens begin to peck excessively at each other. Rather than solve this problem by providing adequate space for the chickens, factory farmers "debeak" them, a painful procedure where the bird's sensitive upper beak is sliced off with a hot metal blade. Chickens raised for consumption have been genetically altered to grow abnormally large. As a result, many broiler chickens' bones are unable to support the weight of their muscle tissue, which causes them to hobble in pain or become crippled. At the slaughterhouse, chickens while still fully conscious are hung upside down by their feet and attached to a moving rail. Birds missed by the mechanical neck-slicing blade and boiled alive are called "redskins".
Eggs: There are more than 459 million egg-laying hens in the U.S. Of these, 97% are confined to "battery" cages - tiny wire boxes roughly 16 by 18 inches wide. Five or six birds are crammed into each cage. Battery hens are forced to produce 10 times more eggs than they would naturally. When egg production slows, factory farmers use a method called "forced molting" to shock the hens into losing their feathers, which causes them to begin a premature laying cycle. "Forced molting" involves starving the hens and denying them water for several days' time, during which many hens die. To keep hens from pecking each other in their crowded cages, factory farmers "debeak" them. Male chicks, considered by-products of laying hen production, are either tossed into plastic bags to suffocate slowly, or ground into animal feed while still alive.
Beef: About 41.8 million beef cattle are slaughtered annually in the United States. For identification purposes, cattle are either branded with hot irons or "wattled," a process in which a chunk of flesh from under the cow's neck is cut out. Raised on the range or in feed lots, cattle when large enough are crammed into metal trucks and taken to slaughter. On the way to slaughter, these cattle may travel for hours in sweltering temperatures with no access to water. Animals unable to stand due to broken legs or illness are called "downers" by the meat industry. Downers are electrically prodded or dragged with chains to the slaughterhouse, or left outside, without food or water, to die.
Milk: About half of the 10 million milking cows in the U.S. are kept in confinement on factory farms. Dairy cows are forced to produce 10-20 times the amount of milk they would naturally need for their calves. This intensive production of milk is extremely stressful, and as a result many dairy cattle "burn out" at a much younger age than their normal life expectancy, and up to 33% suffer painful udder infections. To continue milk production, a cow must bear a calf each year. Although calves elsewhere stay with their mothers for a year or more, on the dairy factory farm they are immediately removed from their mothers so that milk can be sold for human consumption. Calves are sold to the beef or veal industry or become replacements for "burned out" dairy cows.
WHAT PRODUCTS YOU CHOOSE
Despite the modern alternatives to animal testing, millions of animals suffer and die each year for the "good" of cosmetics and household products. No law in the U.S. requires cosmetic, household product, or office supply companies to test on animals, but many companies do so to protect themselves against liability. However, animal testing does not necessarily make a product safe for humans. Most animal tests were developed over 50 years ago and are significantly flawed and inferior to modern alternatives. Use your dollars to send a strong message that animal testing is outdated and unnecessary. Support only companies committed against animal testing.
There are eight types of bear in the world: polar bears, brown (or grizzly) bears, American black bears, Asiatic black bears, sun bears, sloth bears, spectacled bears and giant panda bears. Some are on the verge of extinction, but all face threats.
LOSS OF HABITAT
Probably the biggest threat to bears worldwide is the loss of their habitat and, with it, the loss of their food source. Giant Pandas rely on bamboo forests for their food, but many of these have been cut down by Chinese farmers. It is believed that there are now only about 1,600 pandas left in the wild. Asian black bears are also listed as endangered due to the loss of their habitat.
Other threats include:
In China, bears are imprisoned in farms and 'milked' for their bile daily. The bile is used in Eastern medicine. Bears are taken from the wild for this trade, jeopardizing the survival of bears in the wild. There are hundreds of bear farms housing thousands of bears, mostly Asiatic black bears. These are listed in Appendix 1 of CITES.
BEAR PARKS & ZOOS
Japan is home to eight bear parks, in which bears are confined to concrete pits. Here, they are denied their most basic requirements and are often confined to small spaces without access to shade or shelter. The public tease and torment the bears by throwing in 'bear biscuits' and watching the fights that ensue. Injuries sustained are often not treated. Repetitive behavior is not unusual among bears kept in zoos, and is indicative of stress and psychological trauma. Some of the animals may be obtained illegally. Sun bears were found in a zoo in Indonesia with forged documentation claiming that they had died. Sun bears are endangered.
Over 1,000 bears in India 'dance' on their hind legs for up to 12 hours a day to entertain tourists. The cubs are captured in the wild and traded, even though this has been illegal since 1972. Once sold, the young cub will have his or her muzzle pierced so the handler can control the bear. This is an invasive procedure and infection is common. Due to the stress of capture, the terrible transportation conditions, starvation, dehydration and rough handling, 60-70 percent of bear cubs captured die even before the training begins. Training involves starvation and beatings in order to make the bears rise up onto their back legs. The bears' teeth may be wrenched out and sold as charms to tourists. During their brief lifetime - rarely beyond eight years, in contrast to their natural 30-year life span in the wild - respiratory infection is common, caused by the constant walking along dusty streets.
Although illegal in every country, bear baiting remains a popular past-time in Pakistan, where politicians and senior police officers can still be found watching the show. A series of dogs are set upon a chained bear who must fight for his or her life. The dogs and the bear sustain horrendous injuries.
Black and brown bears are routinely hunted in North America. In all but the most isolated habitat areas, brown bears have been eliminated from much of their former range. In North America, numbers have declined rapidly.
FOOD & MEDICINE
Sun bears are eaten in some countries and their claws are collected as 'good luck' charms. Asiatic black bears are also hunted for their meat and their paws are eaten as a delicacy. Their bile and bones are also used, as they are believed to possess medicinal properties. Hunting spectacled bears is illegal, but they are still routinely poached and their bones, gallbladders and fat used for medicines. The gall bladders of sloth bears are also prized for medical treatments. Because of the cruelty involved and the scarcity of sloth bears, India has banned the hunting of the sloth bear and the sale of products made from their gallbladders.
THE PET TRADE
Like many wild animals, some bears are traded and collected as exotic pets, although they are unsuitable companion animals.
Bears are still used in circuses around the world. Polar bears and brown bears are made to perform tricks like 'dancing', roller-skating or riding bikes. While bears aren't seen in circus performances in Britain, campaigners say that British circuses still own bears and hire them out to do television commercials and other TV appearances.
Hiding in a tree or behind a blind, hunters lie in wait. They are waiting for the bears to take the bait—usually a large pile of food or a 55-gallon drum stuffed with food. Bears can feed at this free trough for days before taking a bullet, while others, deemed unworthy of hanging in someone's trophy room, can dine for the entire bear-hunting season.
Having learned to find food where humans have been, they may become "problem bears" who wander into back yards and upend garbage cans looking for an easy meal.
Hunters claim that the fundamental principle of hunting is "fair chase," but there is nothing fair about bear baiting. In fact, there is not even a chase. An animal is lured to an area and shot while she is eating. The federal government bans the baiting of migratory birds because it's unfair. Most states ban the baiting of deer and elk and other big game for the same reason. There's no logical reason to allow such an unfair practice to persist in bear hunting.
The hunters typically take the head and hide as trophies and, in rare instances, even pack out the meat, which usually turns out to be less food than they had brought in with them.
The U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service all publish materials telling the public not to feed bears. The Forest Service, for instance, puts out materials that warn "A fed bear is a dead bear," "Do Not Feed Bears!" and "Bears Are Dangerous!"
Bear baiting is banned in some states that allow bear hunting.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Contact your state wildlife agency. If bear baiting is legal in your state, express your outrage to state officials and to your governor.
Write letters to the editor of newspapers in your state and contact the media to investigate.
Submit an Op-Ed to your local newspaper.
Attend state wildlife agency meetings and demand that steps be taken to prohibit bear baiting.
Contact your state legislators and ask them to introduce legislation to ban this practice.
Rattlesnake roundups take place from January through July in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Alabama and Georgia. Roundups started as a misguided attempt to rid areas of rattlesnakes, but they have evolved into commercial events that promote animal cruelty and environmentally damaging behavior. Thousands of rattlesnakes are captured and slaughtered, or mistreated in competitive events that violate the basic principles of wildlife management and humane treatment of animals.
No other wild animal in the United States is as extensively exploited and traded without regulation or oversight as the rattlesnake. Several species could become extinct just as we are beginning to understand their ecological importance. Rattlesnakes are important to their ecosystems. They prey on rodents, keeping the populations naturally in check so that the rodents do not cause crop damage or spread disease. Rattlesnakes are also important prey for raptors and other animals. Four species commonly found in roundups are the eastern diamondback rattlesnake, the western diamondback rattlesnake, the timber rattlesnake, and the western or prairie rattlesnake.
The timber rattlesnake is listed as endangered or threatened in several states, but no federal or international laws currently protect this species. The western diamondback rattlesnake, the eastern diamondback rattlesnake, and the western or prairie rattlesnake are not protected anywhere in their ranges, nor are they protected by any federal or international laws. We must act now to save remaining rattlesnake populations and gather the knowledge necessary for developing long-term conservation strategies.
Most rattlesnakes in roundups are driven out of their dens with gasoline, then stored without water or food in unhygienic conditions, and crammed tightly into containers for transport to and display at roundup events. Many snakes arrive at these events starved, dehydrated, or crushed to death. Those who survive may be used in public demonstrations and daredevil acts. The rattlesnakes are eventually decapitated, a cruel and inefficient method of slaughter for reptiles.
Rattlesnake collection methods are highly destructive to the habitats of rattlesnakes and other burrow dwellers such as gopher tortoises, indigo snakes, box turtles, coachwhip snakes, pine snakes, southern toads, and gopher frogs, along with burrowing owls, raccoons, opossums, and at least 32 species of invertebrates. The most popular collection method is to spray gasoline or other toxic chemicals into rattlesnake dens and resting places, which can render a burrow uninhabitable for years. Once introduced into the soil, gasoline could contaminate groundwater—the primary water source for many rural communities—thus poisoning wildlife, livestock and humans.
Roundups pose other threats to human health, too. Contrary to claims of organizers, roundups increase the number of snake-bite incidents in the host communities. This is due to collection activities and competitive events that bring humans with little or no experience into direct contact with rattlesnakes. The bites that result must be treated with antivenin, thereby depleting the local supply of antivenin available to treat bites that are genuinely accidental and unavoidable.
Another hazard is the snake meat sold at roundups for human consumption. Rattlesnakes at roundups are typically killed under unhygienic conditions, and their meat, often improperly prepared, may be contaminated with Salmonella or other bacteria.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that the handling of live snakes can also spread Salmonella. The CDC recommends that people most at risk—including children under five and people with weakened immune systems—avoid all contact with snakes and any items they’ve touched, including clothing. For others, the CDC advises that contact with reptiles in public settings should be limited to designated animal contact areas where there are adequate hand-washing facilities and no food or drink is allowed. It instructs all individuals to wash their hands thoroughly after touching a snake, though it warns that hand washing alone may not be enough to prevent the spread of the bacteria. Unfortunately, at most rattlesnake roundups, proper hand washing facilities are sparse, even though the snakes are sometimes handled by small children.
Organizers often attempt to legitimize roundups by claiming that they provide a supply of venom for antivenin, but their venom collection methods may not meet the strict guidelines for antivenin production required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Rather than add to the nation's supply of antivenin, roundups deplete it by encouraging behavior that leads to snake bites.
Many rattlesnake handlers and roundup organizers attempt to influence public perceptions about snakes with negative misinformation such as false bite statistics. Rattlesnake handlers typically promote their acts as "safety talks" or other sorts of public education. What the public actually sees, however, are demonstrations of extremely unsafe practices, which audience members may try later on their own. Permanent disfigurement or even death could result.
Roundups are a liability to the communities and corporations that sponsor them, as well as to the nonprofit organizations that benefit from them. Hosting communities, sponsoring corporations, and charities that accept proceeds from roundups unwittingly lend these cruel and ecologically unsound events undue credibility. Communities place themselves at financial risk because they may have to cover the cost of medical care for uninsured visitors who may be bitten; they may also face lawsuits or increased criminal activity as unintended outcomes of hosting roundups.
Centuries ago, the African elephant enjoyed ample representation among the teeming herds of wildlife that roamed the African continent. Today, their survival dangles on the precipice of extinction due to unchecked human population growth and overdevelopment. Once numbering in the millions, the continent-wide population in Africa is now estimated to be just under 600,000 elephants.
Elephants exist in one of the most complex societal units of any land mammal. A typical elephant herd consists of a matriarch, who is the leader and usually the oldest female in the group, her siblings and their offspring. The matriarch is the source of all information for the herd.
Throughout her years, she has learned where the best watering holes are, and which areas to avoid because of human presence. If the matriarch is killed by a hunter or poacher, her family suffers immensely and lacks the leader on whom they depend.
Baby elephants are born after an average of 22 months of gestation. They will normally stand within their first hour of life, and they nurse immediately from their mothers. The vital nutrients which can only be found in her milk help the development of the calf's immune system. Mothers and calves are rarely separated, and spend most of their time touching or in close physical contact. The other females in the herd often help raise the young elephant and can often be seen closing in around him to form an "elephant shield" if danger is present. The cousins, aunts, and sisters become the calf's guardians and form a family unit with impenetrable loyalty and devotion. Elephants have only one predator: humans.
Classified as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and endangered under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Animals, the most significant reason for their decline can be traced back to the 1800s when the precursor to the modern ivory trade began to take root. Nearly 200 years and millions of carcasses later, the future of the African elephant is in serious question.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) is an international treaty that governs trade in wildlife. The signatory nations agree to abide by its regulations in order to conserve plants and animals found in their respective countries. As the global demand for ivory increased in the latter part of the twentieth century, the wild herds of African elephants were being decimated at an amazing rate. The rampant poaching of the late 1970s and mid-1980s reduced the population in Africa by half.
In 1989, the parties to CITES voted to ban the once-legal trade in ivory, realizing that unless it was brought to a halt, the African elephant would disappear. After the ban was in place, the price of ivory dropped so rapidly that demand fell and poaching decreased considerably.
Unfortunately, the thin cloak of protection afforded to the elephants would soon wear out completely. In 1997, under threats and pressure from Japan, which wanted to reignite ivory sales, the parties to CITES voted to allow Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia to sell their ivory stockpiles (warehoused ivory taken from elephants who were hunted or died naturally) to Japan. An additional provision allowed the export of live elephants from these countries. New life was breathed into the illegal poaching cartel, and bodies of elephants with their faces hacked away once again appeared on the African savannah. Shortly after the 1997 CITES meeting, Ghana, which had not lost any elephants to poachers since 1988, experienced elephant poaching in Mole National Park. Poaching also increased in the national parks of Zimbabwe and Namibia, two of the proponents of renewed ivory trade.
The first African elephant to be taken from the wild to be used for human entertainment was named Jumbo. He made the journey from Africa to the London Zoo in 1865, and was later sold to P.T. Barnum, the infamous circus magnate. More than a hundred years later, elephants are still being used and abused in circuses all over the world.
Elephants in captivity lead miserable lives. In stark contrast to their natural tendency to roam several miles each day, they are bound in shackles and chains and forced to perform tasks that are the antithesis of their innate instincts.
For a short time, it was illegal to capture a wild elephant for use in a circus or zoo, but the CITES decision in 1997 changed all of that. In August 1998, 30 baby elephants were captured in southern Botswana and sold by the Botswanan government to Riccardo Ghiazza, a South African animal dealer. Although Ghiazza was accused of abusing the elephants and was charged with animal cruelty by the National SPCA, he exported three of the elephant calves to the Basel Zoo in Switzerland, and four calves to the Dresden Zoo in Germany. This sale was the first of its kind in recent history and illustrated the trend that would grow from the destructive weakening of protection for African elephants.
Elephant hunting is alive and well in several African countries. The most notable program exists in Zimbabwe. The CAMPFIRE program (Communal Areas Management Program for Indigenous Resources) is designed to give local villagers "benefits" from living with wildlife. These benefits come at the cost of animals' lives. An estimated 90 percent of CAMPFIRE revenues are gleaned from elephant trophy hunting fees, which are paid by wealthy westerners who want to bag the most notorious of the "Big Five" animals.
CAMPFIRE is funded largely by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which receives tax dollars from U.S. citizens through congressional appropriations. A portion of USAID's support is funneled through the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to administer this trophy hunting program. CAMPFIRE has come under continuous fire for corruption and misappropriation of funds. Other countries which encourage and promote trophy hunting of any animal, endangered or otherwise, include Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, and Tanzania. Kenya and Uganda prohibit hunting of any kind within their borders.
HURTING NOT HELPING
Some conservation organizations who claim to be saving the African elephant, are actually lining up to participate in their demise. WWF, for example, directly benefits from the existence of CAMPFIRE and receives federal dollars for their involvement. The African Wildlife Foundation believes that "CAMPFIRE is essential to meeting our conservation goals," and the National Wildlife Federation believes that "CAMPFIRE is consistent with NWF's common-sense approach to human development and wildlife conservation." With the weight of lofty annual budgets and international recognition, these organizations continue to damage efforts to save what is left of the magnificent African elephants.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If you are going to visit Africa, do not patronize countries such as Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia, which have demonstrated their tenacity for exterminating elephants on their soil. Instead, choose to spend your tourist dollars in elephant-friendly countries such as Kenya and Uganda.
Write to your U.S. Representative and your two U.S. Senators and tell them that you do not want your tax dollars spent on the trophy hunting of elephants. Ask them to stop funding the CAMPFIRE program. Write to The Honorable __________, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510; The Honorable __________, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. 20515.
Write to the conservation organizations that you want to support and ask them about their policies regarding elephants. Do they support trophy hunting? Do they support the ivory trade? What is their position on exporting live elephants to zoos and circuses? Spend your well-intentioned donation wisely.
The most effective way to reduce waste is to not create it in the first place. Making a new product requires a lot of materials and energy - raw materials must be extracted from the earth, and the product must be fabricated then transported to wherever it will be sold. As a result, reduction and reuse are the most effective ways you can save natural resources, protect the environment and save money.
Benefits of Reducing and Reusing
- Prevents pollution caused by reducing the need to harvest new raw materials
- Saves energy
- Reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change
- Helps sustain the environment for future generations
- Saves money
- Reduces the amount of waste that will need to be recycled or sent to landfills and incinerators
- Allows products to be used to their fullest extent
Ideas on How to Reduce and Reuse
- Buy used. You can find everything from clothes to building materials at specialized reuse centers and consignment shops. Often, used items are less expensive and just as good as new.
- Look for products that use less packaging. When manufacturers make their products with less packaging, they use less raw material. This reduces waste and costs. These extra savings can be passed along to the consumer. Buying in bulk, for example, can reduce packaging and save money.
- Buy reusable over disposable items. Look for items that can be reused; the little things can add up. For example, you can bring your own silverware and cup to work, rather than using disposable items.
- Maintain and repair products, like clothing, tires and appliances, so that they won't have to be thrown out and replaced as frequently.
- Borrow, rent or share items that are used infrequently, like party decorations, tools or furniture.
One person's trash is another person's treasure. Instead of discarding unwanted appliances, tools or clothes, try selling or donating them. Not only will you be reducing waste, you'll be helping others. Local churches, community centers, thrift stores, schools and nonprofit organizations may accept a variety of donated items, including used books, working electronics and unneeded furniture.
“Lightning bugs” or “fireflies” are actually beetles, nocturnal members of the aptly named Lampyridae family. Fireflies have special cells that, when the insects takes in oxygen, combine it with a substance called luciferin. This chemical process takes place in dedicated organs located under the fireflies’ abdomens and produces the light. Fireflies flash their light in patterns that are unique to each of the 2,000 species of firefly. They are communicating with their light, each blinking pattern an optical signal to a potential mate.
Sadly, as with so many of the Earth’s creatures, fireflies are disappearing all over the world. The clearing of forests, the destruction of wetlands, the use of toxic chemicals in agriculture and on residential lawns and gardens are all to blame. But the lovely firefly may suffer from something we might not think about - light pollution. It is likely that light from development and traffic may contribute to the firefly’s decline. Ambient light may be responsible for reducing firefly numbers by disrupting their mating signals, making it harder for them to find mates and breed.
You can support firefly populations by following these simple steps. If you make your property or garden a firefly haven, the beauty of their light will more than repay you for your time and effort.
DO NOT CATCH THE FIREFLIES
Adult fireflies live only long enough to mate and lay eggs. Catching fireflies in glass jars is a nostalgic pastime for children on a summer’s evening, but how sad it is to waste one precious moment of a firefly’s brief existence trapped in a glass prison. Let them find their mates and complete their life cycle without disturbance.
KEEP YOUR BACKYARD IN THE DARK
Turn off exterior lights and remove even solar garden lights. If you have bright interior lighting, draw your drapes and lower your blinds at night.
LEAVE ROTTING LOGS AND LEAVES ON THE GROUND
Provide firefly larvae the conditions they need to grow to the adult, breeding stage. Allow some of the branches and leaf litter that fall naturally from the trees on your property to remain under the trees. Or cut them up and tuck the logs into your garden. Use bark mulch, preferably large nuggets, around your plantings to create a thick layer of organic, moisture retaining material.
CHOOSE PLANTS THAT CONSERVE MOISTURE
Solomon’s Seal, iris and hydrangea are a few plants that shade the ground beneath them. To create even more shade for the fireflies, plant low growing plants like wild ginger under the taller plants. Beds thickly planted in this way are like mini jungles, perfect for not only fireflies, but also toads and other moisture loving animals.
CREATE A WATER GARDEN
Any source of water will bring fireflies to congregate. A water garden will attract them and if you plant the edges of your pond with bog plants and keep it moist, the fireflies will stay and hopefully breed there. Chemically treated ponds and pools are not a natural environment for anything. A balanced water garden does not need chemicals.
DO NOT USE PESTICIDES
Pesticides and weed killers have had their effect on firefly populations. (It is widely believed that their use has also negatively impacted the honey bee.) Firefly larvae may eat insects that have been poisoned after eating plants that have been sprayed. The larvae are then poisoned as well.
USE NATURAL FERTILIZERS
Artificial chemicals rarely mix with nature, and many of the harmful chemicals found in pesticides are also found in fertilizers. It is very possible that chemical fertilizers harm firefly populations and the populations of other beneficial insects. Your garden can flourish beautifully with natural fertilizers such as compost. And fertilizing your lawn just makes more work for you and costs you and the Earth more in gasoline.
DON’T OVER-MOW YOUR LAWN
Fireflies stay mostly on the ground during the day and fly at night. Frequent mowing disturbs them. Fireflies prefer to live in long grasses. So mowing less often and leaving some areas of long grass may increase their numbers in your yard.
A firefly habitat needs trees to create shade. Shade and low light areas give the fireflies more time to find a mate. Fast-growing shade trees include Red Maple, River Birch, Tulip and most pine trees. Also, if left to accumulate, leaf litter and the fallen needles of pines will provide a habitat for the worms and slugs that firefly larvae eat.
SPREAD THE WORD
As with all animal issues, be an advocate. Let your friends and neighbors know that if we don’t take action now, fireflies may become just a memory of summers gone. You can set an example for your neighbors when you create a backyard sanctuary for wildlife. If only one of them follows your lead, you will have helped not just the fireflies, but also the other creatures that live around us.