Sunday, September 30, 2012

Global Ecological Footprint: Humanity has exhausted nature's budget for 2012

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The Ecological Footprint

August 22nd Is Earth Overshoot Day: Humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year

(Global Footprint Network, Oakland, CA, 8-22-12) Humanity has surpassed nature’s budget for the year, and is now operating in overdraft, according to data from Global Footprint Network, an international research organization with offices in California and Europe.

Earth Overshoot Day (from a concept devised by the UK think tank new economics foundation) helps conceptualize the gap between what nature can regenerate, and how much is required to support human activities. Similar to the way a bank statement tracks income against expenditures, Global Footprint Network tracks humanity’s demand for, and supply of, natural resources and ecological services. Global Footprint Network’s calculations show that in just over eight months, we have used up the resources and CO2 sequestration that the planet can sustainably provide this year.

For the rest of the year, we will maintain our ecological deficit by depleting resource stocks and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“Nations around the world, and particularly in the south of Europe, have started to painfully experience what it means to spend more money than what they earn,” said Dr. Mathis Wackernagel, President of Global Footprint Network. “The resource pressure is similar to such financial overspending, and can become devastating. As resource deficits get larger, and resource prices remain high, the costs to nations become unbearable.”

Our ecological overspending has become a vicious cycle, in which we draw down more and more principal at the same time our level of consumption, or “spending,” grows. The social and economic costs could be staggering.

“From soaring fossil fuel prices to crippling national debts partly due to rising natural resource prices, our economies are now confronting the reality of years of spending beyond our means,” Dr. Wackernagel said. “If we are to maintain stable societies and productive lives, we can no longer sustain a widening budget gap between what nature is able to provide and how much our infrastructure, economies and lifestyles require.”

For most of human history, humanity has used nature’s services—to build cities and roads, provide food and create products, and absorb the CO2 generated by human activities—at a rate that was well within Earth’s budget. But sometime in the 1970s, we crossed a critical threshold. Human demand began outstripping what the planet could renewably produce, and we went into ecological overshoot.

What is Ecological Overshoot? The video is made available courtesy of the Pachamama Alliance and its Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream Symposium.

Global Footprint Network

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Maui's Dolphin: Incredibly rare, sighted near New Zealand coast!

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Maui's Dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori maui)

Maui's dolphin or popoto is the world's rarest and smallest known subspecies of dolphin. They are a sub-species of the Hector's dolphin. Maui's dolphins are only found off the west coast of New Zealand's North Island, and are the country's only endemic subspecies of cetacean. As of 2012, it is estimated that 55 Maui's dolphins exist in the world. Commercial fishing activity, specifically netting, is killing this species at an alarming rate. (See also Wikipedia)

Incredibly Rare Maui's Dolphins Sighted Off New Zealand Coast

A rare sighting of a pod of Maui's dolphins in the waters off the west coast of New Zealand's North Island. Only about 55 remain in New Zealand's waters, but they could be protected by prohibiting dangerous fishing gear from their habitat; safeguarding the region from sand mining and the threat of oil and gas exploration; and, establishing a protected ocean corridor.

Help Save the World’s Smallest Dolphin

The world’s rarest and smallest marine dolphin is at risk of extinction. Only an estimated 55 Maui’s dolphins over the age of one remain on the planet, all living along a small stretch of New Zealand’s coast. While their survival is threatened by sand mining and oil and gas exploration, the greatest immediate threat is certain types of fishing nets used throughout their coastal habitat. Living close to shore, Maui’s dolphins can easily become entangled in these nets and drown. With so few remaining, each unnecessary death is a critical one.

Maui's Dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori maui) killed by fishing nets Take action today:

Range of Maui's Dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori maui) Please sign WWF's petition and protect the Maui's dolphin from extinction:

The Maui's Dolphin Is Facing Eminent Extinction

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

New Bird Species Discovered in Colombia: Antioquia Wren

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Antioquia Wren (Thryophilus sernai) Photo by: Carlos Esteban Lara

Antioquia Wren (Thryophilus sernai) This is the first video of Thryophilus sernai taken by Juan D. Ramirez. More information about this species is available in The Auk: Lara et al. 2012: A new species of wren (Troglodytidae) from the dry Cauca River Canyon, northwestern Colombia.

New Bird Discovered in Colombia, Imperiled by Hydroelectric Project (Monga Bay)

In a little-known dry forest in Colombia, scientists have discovered a new species of bird: the Antioquia wren (Thryophilus sernai). First seen in 2010, scientists photographed the new wren and recorded its vocalizations, from which they determined that the wren was brand new to science, according to a new paper in Auk.

"[It took] good ears and, good eyes, both in the correct moment and place," lead author Carlos Esteban Lara with the National University of Colombia told about the discovery. After the initial sighting, Lara and colleagues "started a two-year study of data on natural history, distribution, vocalizations, morphology, and genetic variation."

Found along the Cauca River in Colombia's Ituango municipality, the bird is distinct both in its coloring and song.

However, even as the species is first discovered, it may soon be gone. An increase in mining, tourism infrastructure, and deforestation for agriculture in the region has resulted in widespread habitat loss. Moreover, none of region's dry forest is currently protected. Lara dubs these "critical problems" for the future of the Antioquia wren, but adds that the Pescadero-Ituango hydroelectric project could be the fatal blow.

"This dam will flood the remnant tracts of dry forest in the northern end of the new species' range," says Lara, noting that this is the species' "best forest."

If completed the Pescadero-Ituango will be Colombia's largest dam with an installed capacity of 2,400 megawatts.

Ituango's dry forests are also home to the military macaw (Ara militaris) and the recurve-billed bushbird (Clytoctantes alixii), both of which are threatened (Vulnerable and Endangered respectively) according to the IUCN Red List.

Tropical dry forests are ecosystems that not only receive significantly less moisture than rainforests, but also have evolved to survive annual dry seasons with trees often dropping leaves during drought. Lara says that while tropical rainforests garner the bulk of attention worldwide, tropical dry forests are actually more endangered in Colombia.

"[Dry forest] has only five percent of its originally extension, and there has been growing pressure [to convert remaining forest to] agricultural fields," he says, adding that while rainforests are threatened in Colombia they cover a much wider area than dry forest "which is only known isolated in a few localities of Colombia."

Lara urges more research in Colombia's dry forests as he believes other new species may be hiding in the vanishing ecosystem.

Dry forest and canyons along the Cauca River in Colombia.
The forest in this photo will soon be submerged by the Pescadero-Ituango dam.
Photo by: Carlos Esteban Lara.

Antioquia Wren (Thryophilus sernai) Photo by: Carlos Esteban Lara

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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Rungwe the Baby Elephant Charms Visitors!

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Nineteen-day-old Rungwe the African elephant looks like he's still getting used to his over-sized legs, ears, and trunk as he stumbles round his enclosure at the Beauval wildlife park in central France.

Baby Elephant in France Wows Visitors to Zoo 19 day-old Rungwe is proving a popular new addition to the Beauval wildlife park in France. Report by Louise Hulland.

Rungwe, the first African elephant born in France by artificial insemination, pokes its trunk out from its enclosure at the Beauval Zoo in Saint-Aignan, Loir-et-Cher, Central France.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sea Turtles: Struggle for Survival Against Nature and Humanity

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Sea Turtles of the World

The Survival of the Sea Turtle Watch the miraculous journey of infant sea turtles as these tiny animals run the gauntlet of predators and harsh conditions. Then, in numbers, see how human behavior has made their tough lives even more challenging.

Lesson by Scott Gass, animation by Veronica Wallenberg and Johan Sonestedt

Gulf of Mexico: Kemp's Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii)

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Seeking Alpha