Category Archives: Climate change

Resource Use related conflicts

We have always had conflict in the world but it is worse in rural indigenous communities who in most cases are isolated and marginalized by governments. The conservation community is right is in thinking something needs be done to address this.  Recently, I was requested to take part in a resource use planning process, for enhanced development of pastoralist communities living in Northern Kenya.  So, my adventurous travels started from Nairobi, through the former central, rift valley, western, back to the rift valley again, and finally ending up in the Eastern province of Kenya.

From Lodwar, in a matatu with sheep and vegetables

From Lodwar, in a matatu with sheep and vegetables

While waiting for a boat to cross the lake Turkana to the KWS offices in Sibiloi, I remembered my episodes in Papua New Guinea. Fortunately, it took only 5 hours waiting and not a week.

Sending a message while within mobile internet coverage

Sending a message while within mobile internet coverage

I will be here for sometime trying to collect information on how best the resources of the Sibiloi National Park can be utilized by the communities to improve their livelihoods while conserving them. KWS, National Museums of Kenya and Turkana Basin Institute, three major stakeholders in the initiative want to stimulate community participation and contribution in the process so as to make it successful and sustainable.

The communities living around the lake and the park are all pastoralists. The Gabra, Turkana, Daasanach and the El Moro share the resources, which they mainly use as pastureland for their animals. Historically, there have been conflict over the access and usage of these resources often leading to fighting and loss of life. Compounded with frequent and long dry spells, this factor poses a great threat to resource conservation and development activities in the area. I was welcomed by news of the current conflict whereby one Daasanach elder was killed by Gabra people while following his lost donkeys. In retaliation, the Daasanach are said to have killed a Gabra and are demanding for the return of their donkeys or they go into war. The Daasanach, who are better warriors and have access to more sophisticated arms, have their community stretching across the Kenya-Ethiopian border.

The KWS officers and other government administrative arms are doing their best to resolve the dispute and we hope peace will prevail. Keep reading for more updates from here, the North.

Devastating drought in Amboseli

Dear all,

We are indebted to Scott Ward for this guest post who wrote from Amboseli National Park with spectacular photographs he took there. Scott raises some tough questions. Read more about Scott Ward below.

amboseli Mt kilimanjaro WildlifeDirect Scott Ward

Photo Scott Ward

As I drove into Amboseli National Park from across the long dry lakebed, I was immediately taken aback by the large number of carcasses that were dotted everywhere.  In some places it seemed as though a bomb went off and destroyed every living creation within a large area.  It seemed as though a great battle took place with no one winning.  Among the dead an inordinate amount of hyenas plundered the dead and decaying.  Of course, to me, the saddest thing was to see the giant decomposing bodies of elephants.  If elephants lived as short of lives as mice, bred like rabbits, and were abundant, I might be able to relegate their death to just a mere cycle of nature.  But I think it is more than that.  When one sees a wild elephant up close and experiences the wisdom of long years in her life and the power within her massive body one quickly realizes that we are sharing our planet with a truly wondrous creation.  The death of one of these magnificent creatures somehow diminishes our Earth.

 Amboseli drought

Amboseli drought elephants

Amboseli drought photo from http://www.elephanttrust.org

                But in the midst of the macabre dance of the hyena, there is life and green.  Rain has returned to Amboseli – maybe not in the abundance that was hoped for, but arrived nonetheless.  As I drove through the park it was wonderful to see elephants playing in the chest deep water as if celebrating themselves the return of the rains.  Cape buffalo once again have mud to wallow in.  Zebra and wildebeest are slowly returning.  Three beautiful lion cubs were feasting on a freshly caught warthog.  The Rains have returned and hope springs to life again, yet the drought has taken its toll and causes me to wonder what’s next.

 Elephants Amboseli Scott Ward WildlifeDirect

Photo Scott Ward

                As I sat around the pool at our lodge, I began to contemplate that probably this swimming pool was filled with water while animals perished just a short distance away.  The freshly manicured grass was definitely kept watered through the long drought, while on the other side of the fence the grass literally dried to dust.  Tourists enjoyed a whole host of drinks and foods while the animals struggled for a drop of water or a morsel of food.  As these thoughts rolled around in my mind, I began to ask myself, “Why can’t we help?”  According to leading scientists, global warming is our fault.  Others say that we should not interfere – that we should take a hands-off approach to wildlife conservation.  Many people just don’t care either way what happens, because they have their own life to worry about.  But they did not see the casualties.

 Elephants Amboseli Scott Ward WildlifeDirect

Photo Scott Ward

                I certainly don’t know all the answers, but it did impress upon me the necessity to continue my support of conservation efforts.  The lives of these incredible creatures are too precious to simply let them slide into eternity without a fight.

Scott Ward

 About Scott Ward:   My family and I are missionaries in Northern Tanzania near Moshi.  I am also an amateur photographer trying to take steps into a larger arena with my photography.  I currently have a number of images in the online gallery called Art for Conservation (http://www.artforconservation.org/artists/scottward). It is here that I have been supporting the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust with sales from my photographs on this site.  We live right next to Mkomazi National Park and have visited with Tony and Lucy Fitzjohn who run the conservation effort there. My personal portfolio website is http://www.sbward.com.  I have my sepia-toned images for sale and on display at the web address listed above.  I also have some color photographs of African wildlife at http://useatripod.imagekind.com.

Swoop Net’s 5,000 Bags of Illegal Charcoal

A Kenya Forests Service (KFS) crackdown on illegal charcoal trade in Kinango, some 70 km southeast of Mombasa, Kenya, nabbed six 3-ton trucks loaded with more than 5,000 bags of charcoal in two days starting 1 December 2009. The operation, involving 15 forest rangers, one commander, two forest officers and the District Forest Officer (DFO) also fined the 6 trucks KShs 50,000 ($650) each in addition to forfeiting their charcoal load.

charcoal raid arrest

To ensure that the truck crews forfeited the charcoal, the DFO had to rush to the Kwale District Coats (under whose jurisdiction Kinango is) to obtain an order allowing the crack team to confiscate the haul. The team then started disposing the charcoal by selling it to local people at KShs 300 ($4) per bag on 3 December. This is the normal way of disposing of impounded charcoal. Buyers were however suspicious thinking that they were being trapped resulting in a slow start to the disposal process. By end of Day 1 only 1/3 of the load had been sold.

According to  Elias Kimaru of the Kwale landscape project of the WWF in the area more than 3,000 bags of charcoal are getting out of the area on daily basis to supply Mombasa and Nairobi. “It is also believed that some charcoal is being exported to Middle East.” Kimaru told WildlifeDirect.

charcoal raid

Most charcoal bags weigh 50 kgs (heavy charcoal from indigenous trees). “Taking the rate of conversion from wood to charcoal to be 10%, we are talking of more than 1500 tonnes of woods is being converted from trees to charcoal daily”, adds Kimaru

According to Kimaru, most of these trees are harvested from private ranches and county council land (unprotected public land).

The result of this wanton destruction of tree cover is accelerated micro-climatic changes in the area with the inevitable outcome of prolonged drought which Kimaru says is turning the area into a desert. The Kinango area for instance has not recieved any significant rainfall for more than four years. “An area like Kilibasi which used to be self sustaining in food production in mid 80’s can not feed itself at the moment.” says Kimaru. “Water pans have dried and most cattle have died. More than 41% of the people depend on relief food on permanent basis while the poverty levels have increased to all time high of 71% (the District is among the poorest in the country).” he adds.

Ending the charcoal menace is hampered mostly by politicians who insist that charcoal burning is a means of livelihood for the local people. But Kimaru disagrees: “If it was a livelihood we would have expected a decrease in poverty levels [not] an increase.”

There is an urgent need for politicians to show willingness to link the high rate of tree destruction with increasing poverty levels in Kwale District. This is of course not likely in the near future given that – as Kimaru suspects – “some power people are benefiting from this illegal activity and they would like the status [quo] to remain.” This is corruption which in most African countries is the key impediment to conservation of forests, wildlife and entire ecosystems. It is also driving Africans deeper and deeper into poverty.

Some organizations are however working towards providing alternative fuel methods to at lease reduce local demand for charcoal and other wasteful wood fuel uses. In my next installation, I will bring you the story of one such organization that is harnessing the power of the volunteer movement to develop more efficient methods of domestic fuel consumption for local people.

Video on climate change and poverty alleviation in Africa

We’ve been thinking about the implications of decisions (or not) at Copenhagen at the Global Climate Change Conference which starts on Monday.

To find out what  the average Kenyan thinks, I spoke to Rhoda, a domestic worker in Nairobi.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/SS-qHAFsODM" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

You can also download and listen to this as a podcast on the Public Radio Exchange here

I was surprised with her knowledge, views, and expectations. Let me know what you think. How can the worlds leaders satisfy the Rhoda’s of the world while reducing carbon emissions?

interviewing rhoda for radio

rhoda-and-winnie-2.jpg

Family on a Bicycle in Kenya

Please feel free to share widely.

Climate change talks – is it too late for action in Africa?

I am personally finding it very hard to get excited about the upcoming climate change talks in Copenhagen to agree on emissions limits – you see  Africa is already facing the brunt of climate change

Climate change Africa

Now studies show that  Climate has been a major driver of armed conflict in Africa,  and future warming is likely to increase the number of deaths from war.

Discussing the Copenhagen meeting brought me as close to a domestic dispute as I’ve ever been in. Over a bowl of oat meal I became quite angry.

I think that the Copenhagen meetings will not deliver the commitments needed. My partner says that even if it doesn’t, something is better than nothing. I disagree…look at these graphs

Atmospheric Carbon

Atmospheric Carbon

According to the European Climate Foundation analysis – and others we will not meet the targets for reduction in carbon emissions – commitments made so far are probably not enough to meet the G8 target

With all the squabbling about who is to blame for the state of the situation, and who should pay for curbing the problem we seemed to have lost sight of the fact that we need to stop emitting carbon. But who should stop?

carbon emissions

The problem we know is that the growing worlds middle class in places like China, Brazil and India are driving the rapid increase in emissions. But emissions per capita are still highest in America and Europe – regions whose growth got us to this situation in the first place.

But  which government leader will agree to reductions in standards of living? Should Americans accept a Chinese standard of living, should Chinese and other developing world people sacrifice growth towards a higher standard of living.. ..you see the solution is obvious but yet it’s too hard a problem to solve in one meeting, and I’m not sure that what little progress we make at Copenhagen will be worth the air miles.

Am I wrong or does it feel like we are bailing out our sinking ship with a teaspoon?

In February 2007 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that global warming is “unequivocal” and that human-produced carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are chiefly to blame, to a certainty of more than 90 percent.  In fact scientists had been warning about the impact of carbon emissions since the 1950′s! What if we started capping emissions back then?

The fact that we’ve known about the problem for a long time and done nothing about it makes me fear that it’s like getting gangrene  in your toe – it’s annoying, it smells and it’s getting worse slowly. By the time you actually believe your doctor about the seriousness of your situation it’s in your hip and by then cutting off your toe is a waste of time. It’s spread too far and the condition is going to kill you. Faster or slower will depend on whether you take your medication or not.

The current issue of The Economist the last page states that

According to the International Energy Agency energy demand in OECD countries is expected to all slightly by 2015. In 2007 these nations used around 5.5 billion tones of oil equivalent, compared to 6.2 billion tones in non – OECD counties. But that is widening because the annual rate of growth of non members energy use is predicted to be more than ten times that of member economies between 2007 and 2030. Chinese energy demand will overtake Americas by 2015.

 By 2030 china and India together will account for almost a third of the global energy use. By then the world will consume 16.8 billion tones of oil equivalent. Coal will fuel the bulk of China’s increased energy use”.

And this graph below tells me that there is no way in hell that the world can meet carbon emissions targets if these coal consumption trends are correct”.

Coal use

Michel Jarraud, the head of the World Meteorological Organization, warned that levels of greenhouse gases have reached a record high. They have risen every year since detailed records began in 1998, and that the pace of increase was quickening. I’m always amazed when predictions include “Treacherous floods, deadly droughts, rising sa levels and the displacement of millions of people as refugees have all been predicted if temperatures rise as expected“.  These predictions are already reality in Africa.

So you see, I wanted to tell my partner that he scoop that teaspoon as fast as he liked, it’s not going to save this sinking ship.

He stormed off refusing to admit I was right.  My ruined breakfast was irrelevant on the big scale of things. Most Kenyans have no idea that climate change is the cause  of the recurrent droughts, that the failed crops, livestock deaths, spreading diseases and deepening poverty and intensifying clashes are all interlinked with the global addiction to a carbon based fuels.

Sometimes it feels insensitive to say this but wildlife is one of the victims of these climate changes. Hundreds of hippos have died this year in the Tsavo West National Park due to the  drought.  Hundreds of elephants, thousands of waterbuck, buffalo, antelopes and other species have died or are dying across Kenya. It is tragic but there is little we can do against climate change but help pastoralists suffering from human wildlife conflict.  We know from past droughts that wildlife will rebound, but this can only happen if we strictly protect our parks and conservation areas.

Saving Africa’s wildlife and protected areas is not just for the pleasure of rich tourists, there is another fundamental reason  why we should do this. It’s self preservation. These natural areas are critically important locally as safe havens for species that we depend on for foods. As we have seen in Kenya, protected areas enable us to have cities like Nairobi – without the Aberdares and Mt Kenya National Park and forests we would not have water or electricity in our capital city Nairobi. Our water catchments are all protected and when we let them go the consequences are devastating as we have found out  in the Mau. Nobody questions that the forest must be saved – we have recently discovered that millions of people are affected by the  loss of forest cover there. It affects weather, climate, farming, water amount and quality as well as entire indusrties like fisheries in Lake Naivasha.

Our wilderness areas in Africa may be our most valuable defense against global climate change – already Africa is feeling the brunt of the impact of rising atmospheric carbon even though we contributed little to it. It’s time that resources are pumped into Africa to halt the loss of natural systems as a planet saving strategy – lose natural areas and we lose the free services of rainforest and woodland carbon mops.  Saving Africa’s wilderness will necessarily require that we address the cause of the destruction – it’s poverty. If we can focus global priorities on addressing extreme poverty we could save the forests and other important natural ecosystems, for this and future generations.

Thank you for your all your continued support

The Pain of Saving the Mau Forest Complex

Kenya just recently went through the most devastating drought in decades. It is believed that in some parts of the country, this drought was made worse by forest destruction and the resultant drying of rivers. The most dramatic case of rivers drying was experienced in the areas which source their water from the Mau Forest Complex. The Mau is the largest continuous forest area in East Africa and is the source of many rivers including the Mara River, which runs through, and is the lifeline, of Kenya’s most celebrated wildlife conservation area – the Masai Mara National Reserve.

Map of Mau in Kenya
The Mau Complex in Kenya (Map: BBC News)

For years, the Mau has suffered severe destruction as land hungry Kenyans invade the forest, sometimes with government consent and fraudulently issued legal land ownership documents. According to the BBC “During the past 15 years, more than 100,000 hectares – one quarter of the protected forest reserve – had been settled and cleared.” About 20,000 families had settled in the forest.

In the last few years, the government has been working on the removal of these illegal settlers from this forest complex which is the largest of the country’s 5 most important ‘water towers’. Now it seems that the government is succeeding, but it has not been – as usual -without its fair share of politics. Of course, where voters are concerned, the politicians will take sides depending on which block of the electorate they want to align themselves with.

That said, the first batch of illegal settlers started leaving the forest a couple of days ago. This, in environmental terms is good as the government has promissed to plant 100-million trees to replace those felled by the settlers. It is a good start but it will definitely take decades before the rivers of the Mau can once again flow as they did before the 1990s.

This eviction however introduces a sad humanitarian crisis since many of the evictees have nowhere else to go. Many have resigned to a life of squalor on the outskirts of the forest, along major roads. The government says it has plans to resettle those who are genuinely homeless in the same fashion it is assisting the IDPs who resulted from the violent fallout from the disputed 2007 presidential elections. We however know how these things work.

To really know how the government is likely to deal with this huge humanitarian burden, you just need to reflect back to the case of evictees that came from the Mount Kenya Forest. This particular group had been living in the forest when the colonial government demarcated the forest reserve in 1950. In 1989 however, they were evicted after they started encroaching further into the forest. Since then, they stayed by the roadside until July 2009 when they were allocated land in Laikipia area north of Mount Kenya. They had been on the roadside for 20 years.

Is the eviction of 20,000 humans out of the forest a good thing? I would say yes. They need to get out so that the work of rehabilitating the forest can start in earnest. But, the government should act with haste to find alternative agricultural land to settle these people so that they can once again engage in economic activities that help in building the nation.

Evictees cannot be allowed to go back to the Mau. That would make matters worse. They should not be relocated to another protected area. There are still large tracts of land owned by a few rich Kenyans. Such land is lying idle and underutilized despite the fact that it is in prime agricultural areas. The government should force these greedy landowners to sell this land and use it to settle the landless.

Climate Change and Wildlife Extinction

This is my view of how climate change will affect wildlife – Maina

dead crocodileWhen world leaders discuss climate change, the picture that is in their minds is of people caught in drought and floods, melting snow and icecaps in the mountain ranges and polar regions, and the polar bear. Well, that is not the worst case scenario. Less obvious wildlife (as compared to the polar bear) will suffer too – and perhaps more than humans.

You see human kind – as a species – will survive this rapid change in climate better than wildlife. Humans, in short, will survive. But some non-human inhabitants of mother Earth will not. It’s a given that wild species of animals and plants survived the beginning and end of the Ice Age, but they did so naturally. The climate change then was not as rapid as the climate change we are witnessing today. We all know the reason why – humans had not invented the steam engine, hadn’t discovered coal and petroleum and industrialisation was not even a seed in the little mind our ancient ancestors.

Now greenhouse gas emissions and an opulent consumerism has renderd the natural systems weak and the pace at which global warming and other climate change factors are progressing is mind boggling – and wildlife cannot keep abreast.

Take the example of trees. In mountain ranges, there is a nice tiered arrangement of different dominant species of plants. From lowland forest trees to upland, bamboo, alpine glades, tundra etc. Two problems arise here. 1) Assuming the vegetation belts can quickly stay at pace with temperature rise, they will push each other up the mountain until they all have nowhere else to go then they go extinct. 2) In reality, they cannot keep up the pace so they will die on the way up.

The great Savannahs of Africa may look indestructible – but they are not. We are increasingly seeing irregular rain patterns which is disrupting vegetation growth resulting in mass deaths of the massive herds of charismatic and much loved large herbivores, and their attending predators iconically represented by lions, cheetah, leopard and the like.

In Kenya recently, prolonged drought – and we can not rule out the effects of climate change as the cause – first killed livestock, then pushed the livestock into wildlife habitats, then killed the wildlife. Now Kenya is – ironically – waiting for El Nino rains to settle in so that it can save people, their livestock and wildlife. But the El Nino could be made more severe by the effects of climate change. So more people, livestock and wildlife will die. Iregi Mwenja, a Kenyan bushmeat researcher posted pictures of the onset of the El Nino rains in Voi today. One of the casualties of the big water was a masai goat that died in the floods.

That is a look on the extreme weather conditions that climate change is making worse. The silent increase in temperature will have the most devastating impact on wildlife as habitats change. According to the BBC:

It is estimated 20-30% of plant and animal species will be at increased extinction if the temperature rises by more than 1.5 – 2.5C. Less snow in winter, warmer temperatures in summer and more winter rain will affect wildlife across the board. Sea level rises will reduce land area in some countries, which will instantly affect vegetation which is currently used for homes and foods by animals.

In Africa, most of traditional dispersal area for wildlife is now occupied by humans as population increases exponentially. When climate change takes full effect, wildlife will attempt to move to these areas and human-wildlife conflict will escallate. The result is that wildlife will be killed. From another perspective, humans, with the effects of climate change on their heels, will invade wildlife protection areas, killing wildlife to create room for themselves, and their ravenous progeny.

Lest you tell me that the earth is man’s home, and we don’t need the wildlife, let me remind you the intricate balance between biological  systems, including bacteria! and the physical (rock) earth. The scientific author, Edward O Wilson, in his book “The Future of Life” talks of the earths biological system as a layer of living matter so thin you cannot see it sideways from space but absolutely neccessary for overall integrity of the planet as a whole (including energy flows). So there you have it: Without the biological system, there is no earth. Or in a language that you will understand, without the biological matter of old that became fossilized millenia ago, we would not have oil or coal = no fuel = no cars = no industrialization.

It is time to act. Our first wave of action is no doubt massive adjustment to our consumption patterns in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This, if dully practiced, could slow down climate change. Talk, write, chant, wave placards at or do what you do best, but make your leader act on climate change. Tell them that when they get to Copenhagen on 7-18 December 2009, they have to come up with a climate deal that saves us and wildlife. And go over to TckTckTck and join the more than 2 million ‘planet earthians’ tell the world leaders that you are ready for a climate deal that works.

It is said that climate change is inevitable, but the pace will have to slow down. Climate change has occurred before, but not at this pace. Let us all change the way we live, slow climate change and give the other inhabitants of this planet a chance to take on climate change at their own pace. We cannot make them adapt at our pace…they were not made that way.

Let’s slow climate change. Lets save our wildlife.

Sheryls thoughts on climate change

Dear all, I invited readers and friends to contribute their thoughts on Climate change in the run up to Copenhagen from 6th – 8th December – only 52 days away. It may not surprise many of you that our first guest blogger is Sheryl who writes  her own fantastic blog Not Honey: Please don’t tap on the glass.

Climate change decision must include commitment to slow and stop population growth

No one likes to talk about human overpopulation as the number one
crisis facing our planet. Most environmentalists and wildlife
protectors don’t like to talk about it. There’s the idea that having
as many kids as you want is a God-given right and mentioning that
“right” as a cause for climate change and planetary destruction irks
many people.

That silence is deadly. Here the world waits for the U.S. to take the
lead on climate change and the best we can do is a useless
cap-and-trade bill that has no chance of actually limiting greenhouse
gas emissions. There are too many loopholes, including the
“offsets” that industry insists they must have, and no clear plan for just how
many credits for emissions the big polluters can buy. Not included at
all in this bill are greenhouse gases from farms, which emit
35-40 percent of all methane emissions, “(which have 23 times the
global warming potential of carbon dioxide), 65 percent of nitrous
oxide (which is 320 times as warming as carbon dioxide) and 64 percent
of ammonia, which contributes to acid rain” according to the 2006 UN
report “Livestock’s Long Shadow.”

Food production for an exploding human population is a major source of
global warming pollution. There is talk now among wildlife protectors
about designating more wildlife parks and reserves for agriculture and
animal farming. Dr. Richard Leakey, noted anthropologist, wildlife
protector, and head of WildlifeDirect, in an interview for
Kenya Imagine” said the following:

“Population growth is, as far as I am concerned, is
probably the single most worrying factor for the planet. We can look
at a farm, we can look at a national park – we can say the carrying
capacity of that area is “x.” If we look at the planet, the carrying
capacity for our planet has been exceeded. This planet has too many
people on it. How we address this I don’t know. But I am certain if we
don’t address it, many of the good efforts being made to cut carbon
dioxide emissions and to find alternative sources of energy won’t have
the desired effect. It has got to be linked and conceptualised in a
way that stabilises the human population and ultimately brings the
numbers down.”

Iregi Mwenja, a researcher on WildlifeDirect, has posted more than once about
the threat to wildlife from a growing human population. Recently, he
posted:

“With the population of the world at 9 billion in
2050
, we may have 370 million people facing famine
worldwide. FAO says more land is needed to increase food production by
70 percent in 2050. In a country like Kenya where land is scarce now
and famine is the order of the day, the situation will be grave
serious in 40 years time when human population will have grown to over
60 million people. We may be forced to sacrifice some land in our
protected areas to feed this overblown human population! If you don’t
want to contribute to this catastrophe, let us limit the number of
kids per couple to 2. Please read the BBC NEWS
article below for more details on the FAO repor
t.”

Read that again: Food production must increase 70 percent over
the next 40 years to feed the growing human population.
What
does that mean?

More factory farms and far more greenhouse gas emissions promoting
global climate change than can be regulated or capped-and-traded. The
BBC story states that “Climate change, involving floods and droughts,
will affect food production.” Climate change is already having a
devastating affect on food production and vice versa.
Thousands of farmers in India have committed suicide because of crop failures
due to drought. Deforestation in the Amazon to make room for
cattle farms and soybean farms to FEED THE CATTLE has caused the loss
of more than 150,000 square kilometers of rainforest in Brazil between 2000-2008.
Loss of forests in the Democratic Republic of Congo is putting
gorillas at risk of extinction, which will put humans at risk of
extinction, too.

How’s that? How can the loss of a fellow Great Ape species have
anything to do with human survival? Turns
out that gorilla dung is a major component in forest growth. We
need rainforests to turn carbon dioxide into clean air and to deter
the greenhouse effect. Gorillas, according to Ian Redmond, the UN
ambassador for the Year of the Gorilla, “are herbivores, feeding on
fruit and plants. The digested food, as it passes through their
systems, helps seeds to germinate. … The full extent of the
gorillas’ role in propagation is unclear. But Redmond said a number of
plant species could not flourish without them, or wild elephants, the
other large mammal crucial in germination.” The gorillas “caught up in
the region’s civil wars, preyed on by poachers, and crowded out of
their homes by mining and logging industries – are already endangered
across Africa. …But Redmond’s argument could help give the animals a
new level of protection.” Economists have suggested spending $15
billion on reforestation as a “cheap” way of cutting greenhouse gas
emissions.

“Redmond said gorillas were crucial in maintaining the lifecycle of
the rainforests in the Congo basin. The forests themselves suck up
more than 1bn tonnes of carbon every year.”

“This is what the species are for. They are not ornaments. They are
not just interesting things to study. They are part of an ecosystem,”
he said.”

We are the only species of Great Apes on this planet who seem not to
know their place in an ecosystem. If we continue to allow human
populations to grow and crowd out all the wildlife until they’re all
extinct, and use up all the forests until they’re gone … what will
we have left? A planet full of nothing but humans and a ruined
environment that can no longer support life.

“It is only if you bring numbers down that we will be able to find a
way for resource utilisation per capita to increase. It is the only
way you are going to deal with poverty and unless you deal with
poverty, the situation can only spiral downwards. This is a massive
problem and the solutions are not simply condoms versus draconian
measures such as one child per family. It has to be looked at in
different countries in different ways. I think there has to be a
commitment everywhere to slow and stop population growth. I do believe
that we have been set back a long way by the opposition to family
planning that is being shown by some of the religious groups and by
some of the more conservative governments such as the current US
administration.” – Richard Leakey, in an interview published during
the Bush Administration


NotHoney@gmail.com
http://nothoney.com
“… a vegan driving a Hummer contributes less to greenhouse gas
emissions than a meat-eater riding a bicycle.”–Capt. Watson

Thank you Sheryl!

Please leave Sheryl a comment here and if you would like to contribute your thoughts on a blog just write to me paula@wildlifedirect.org.

55 days left to save our planet

 It’s hard to ignore the tension as the world hold it’s collective breath for the outcome of a meeting in Copenhagen on December 9-12 when the parties of

the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meet for the last time on government level before the Kyoto climate agreement must be renewed (In 2012 the Kyoto Protocol to prevent climate changes and global warming expires).  Governmental representatives from 170 countries are expected to convene at the Bella Center as well as over 8000 others from governmental representatives, NGO’s, journalists and concerned people.

This is a HUGE issue. The conclusion of the meeting will be the Copenhagen Protocol to prevent global warming and climate changes. It will affect you and me and all generations to come, very directly.

Philipines floods

Floods in the Philippines – proof of climate change?

It’s not just me that is worried. A survey of world wide views on global warming polled 4,400 citizens of 38 countries revealed that 91% thought the climate situation very urgent. It is a huge relief that the human race is finally aware that there is a climate problem.


 The way I see it there are two HUGE issues.  

Should the worlds economies focus primarily on

1.   Emissions reductions ie. Kick the carbon addiction

or

2.     Climate change adaptation Ie. Find a way to live with climate change

According to the World Wide views on global warming 58% of citizens of industrial nations believe that between green house gas emissions should be reduced by 25 – 50%.

Ban Ki Moon

At the Copenhagen ClimateCouncil earlier this year, the president of the United Nations Ban Ki Moon said “We know that the safest way of reducing climate risks is to reduce emissions. We know that taking early action makes good business sense. And we know the cost of inaction will be much bigger that the cost of inaction now”.

But yet fewer people from developing nations though that they should face the same emissions reductions. The problem is that if low income countries agree to lower gas emissions they will be unable to develop at a desirable pace or to the standards they aspire to. They also cannot afford the cost of climate change adaptations.

But Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UN Environment Program Executive Director says that cutting green house gases will not be enough. And Prof. Lu?ka Kajfež Bogataj from the University of Ljubljana agrees with him. On the Climate Thinkers Blog she says that the problem may be worse than we think “Deep down some of the scientists believe that we will soon be surprised to learn that the global climate change impact has been under estimated and that we will recognize that the climate change cost is even higher than was estimated”.

So my question is this. Do we humans really have the will to deal with climate change?

Well there’s a lot of shouting and yelling going on and activists are screaming for governments to agree to emissions controls.It feels good and people are being asked to make personal commitments to reduce their carbonf ootprint by 10%.

But do we really comprehend the scale of personal sacrifices that are needed for us to avert the consequences of climate change?

In this list what would you be willing to do?

  1. Live in cold houses through the winter
  2. Forgo air conditioning in the summer
  3. Sell your car and use only public means or walk to get about
  4. Eat much much less,
  5. Be a vegan
  6. Never travel on holiday again

Let’s face it, we are addicted to comfort – kicking the carbon habit = suffering. It aint gonna happen, most humans aren’t masochists.

As one very smart person said to me yesterday “we are constantly seeking to earn more so that we can live more comfortably, Americans will not change their way of life for climate change. Nor will they respond to the impacts of climate change which are already affecting poor countries“. The American who said this to me is a teenager. That scares me.

I am currently in Boston where it’s very cold outside and it’s toasty warm indoors – so warm that it’s delicious. I just don’t see people agreeing to be cold – it’s dangerous for our bodies and makes us grouchy.

Grouchy angry people are unpleasant to be around, but hungry starving people are dangerous

From what I’ve seen in Africa, I personally believe that the impacts of climate change will lead to civil conflicts, wars, and genocide.

drought Kenya

Imagine what its like being a parstoralist in Northern Kenya where it has not rained for 3 years. Your cattle are starving and dying all around you. All your wealth could be gone in days unless you find grass and water. Your children are sickly and dying too – you watch them go for days with out eating. They don’t complain. Your wife is dehydrated, she cannot even produce tears when the youngest dies. You bury him in a shallow grave, you are too weak to dig any deeper. The sun is burning your skin but there is no shade, you are weak but you must keep moving in search of grass to keep the few emaciated cattle alive. You don’t care that you are in other peoples land, that they are armed and have threatened to kill you. You know that there will be a bloody battle so you carry a gun and you are ready to use it. You have armed your children and your wife too. This is a life or death struggle, you will do anything to stay alive and feed your family.

Sound fictional? It’s happening in Kenya right now watch this BBC video about drought conflict and elephants

The Copenhagen Treaty tries to address the immediate impact of climate change on developing nations and on page 122 it says

17. [[Developed [and developing] countries] [Developed and developing country Parties] [All Parties] [shall] [should]:]
(a) Compensate for damage to the LDCs’ economy and also compensate for lost opportunities, resources, lives, land and dignity, as many will become environmental refugees;

(b) Africa, in the context of environmental justice, should be equitably compensated for environmental, social and economic losses arising from the implementation of response measures.

First let me tell you I HATE LEGALESE.

But what worries me more is that this language sounds like socialism and I’m afraid it is a red flag to the capitalists (who happen to currently rule planet earth). If you’ve been following the health care debate in USA you’ll know what I mean. Comments on the Coyote blog confirm my worst fears about lack of empathy by some American people towards other non Americdans. All I can say is that these people frighten me.

drought Kenya

It’s hard not to feel despair for the planet.  I feel especially pained because climate change is affecting me. Kenyans are dying of starvation in a drought caused largely to climate change yet the countries that are mostly responsible for the climate change have not responded adequately to appeals and the WHO warns that only 10% of required food is available to feed 10 million starving people. I feel powerless to do anything to save my people. I know that suffering is already fueling conflicts.

Maybe it’s just me but I get the feeling that the countries attending the Copenhagen meeting are doing so with heavy hearts, the decisions at hand are very tough and will necessarily be painful. It’s as if to survive we have to chop off our limbs – otherwise we will slowly boil, and everything will be affected, oceans, soil, water, people, the air we breathe, wildlife and nature in general..

I’ve met many young people who believe it’s too late, we’re too greedy, too slow and too selfish.

But we cannot despair, it paralyses us. We are the thinking ape, LETS THINK up some solutions!

You can Help us!

We are inviting 30 guest bloggers to give us their views, their experiences, and to share their 3 big ideas in the run up to Copenhagen.  If you would like to contribute please send me an email paula@wildlifedirect.org subject My Planet

For a great guide to Copenhagen visit the Climate Feedback Blog

Drought cattle and anthrax threatens Nairobi Park

In a previous story about cattle dying in the Nairobi Park We have been going purple in the face trying to raise awareness about the public health, ecological and economic threat facing Kenya as a consequence of uncontrolled movements of cattle during the current drought.

Cattle dying in Nairobi Park

This is Dauti Kahura  story published in today’s East African Standard

A week ago, a man died of anthrax in Nyeri after eating infected cow meat. A week earlier, although not reported, two rhinos from Nairobi National Park died of anthrax. The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) confirmed the cause of deaths.

The death of the man should raise the red flag. There is great fear that some of the meat being sold in and around Kitengela and Ongata Rongai butcheries could be contaminated with anthrax, foot and mouth and east coast fever. Investigations by The Standard on Saturday revealed that sick and dying cattle are slaughtered on the roadsides and expose nearby communities to outbreaks.

Temporary bomas

Last week, five kilometres into Masai Lodge Road in Ongata Rongai where herders have set up temporary bomas, The Standard on Saturday team found sickly cattle being slaughtered for distribution to neighbouring butcheries.

Mr Rolf Schmid, a restaurateur who has lived in the area for almost two decades, raised the alarm.

“My first instinct was to contact the Ministry of Health and veterinary officials to come and witness the slaughter of dying cattle,” he said.

The Ministry of Public Health officers and vets from Kajiado concur that some of the cattle appeared sickly although not all were emaciated. The Government health officials, who sought anonymity because they are not authorised to be quoted, confirmed that the animals pose danger.

Due to drought, Maasai herders drive the cattle up to the city and many of them are kept in bomas along Mombasa Road. Tens of thousands of cattle that have been migrating from Loitokitok, Tsavo West, Kibwezi, Sultan Hamud and Kajiado are also being held in bomas on the northern and southern sides of the Nairobi National Park.

Cattle dying in Nairobi Park

By day, these cattle are hosted on the local ranches around the park and by night driven inside it for grazing. Early this week, The Standard on Saturday observed hundreds of cattle being driven into the park on the southern end from the Masai Lodge Road. Tired and exhausted, they walked in a profile, with some not completing the journey.

herding in parks

According to a KWS senior warden, herders have been cutting the fence to allow large numbers of cattle into the park. KWS impounded 1,000 cattle and when the herders came for them the next day, they said some of the animals belong to “well connected Kenyans”.

Due to severe drought and exhaustion of grazing fields, Nairobi National Park is the only location in city with ample grazing field.

Cattle dying in Nairobi Park

But now it is also massively threatened with decimation. More worrying is the fact that the wild animals are also at great risk of being infected with diseases. KWS officials say some antelopes have been infected with foot and mouth.