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Environmental and Animal Rights Groups Suing Trump Administration Over Changes to Endangered Species Act

They charge the administration with breaking the law by announcing changes to the implementation of the landmark act

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Endangered Species, Environmental, Animal
A monarch butterfly rests on a plant at Abbott's Mill Nature Center in Milford, Del. Seven environmental and animal protection groups teamed up to file the first lawsuit challenging the Trump administration's rollback of the Endangered Species Act. VOA

Seven environmental and animal rights groups are suing the Trump administration for its regulations that would make drastic changes to the implementation of the Endangered Species Act.

The environmental law group Earthjustice filed the joint suit Wednesday in San Francisco.

They charge the administration with breaking the law by announcing changes to the implementation of the landmark act without first analyzing the effects the changes would have.

“In the midst of an unprecedented extinction crisis, the Trump administration is eviscerating our most effective wildlife protection law,” the National Resources Defense Council said. “These regulatory changes will place vulnerable species in immediate danger – all to line the pockets of industry. We are counting on the courts to step in before it is too late.”

Endangered Species, Environmental, Animal
Seven environmental and animal rights groups are suing the Trump administration for its regulations that would make drastic changes to the implementation. Pixabay

An Interior Department spokesman responded by saying “We will see them in court and we will be steadfast in our implementation of this important act with the unchanging goal of conserving and recovering species.”

Attorneys general from two states — California and Massachusetts — also say they will sue.

Environmentalists credit the 1973 Endangered Species Act with saving numerous animals, plants and other species from extinction.

About 1,600 species are currently protected by the act and the administration says streamlining regulations is the best way to ensure they will stay protected.

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“The revisions finalized with this rule-making fit squarely within the president’s mandate of easing the regulatory burden on the American public without sacrificing our species’ protection and recovery goals,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said last week.

The finalized changes include requiring consideration of economic cost when deciding whether to save a species from extinction. The law currently says the cost to logging or oil interests will have no bearing on whether an animal or other species deserves protection.

The revised regulations would also end blanket protection for a species listed as threatened, a designation that is one step away from declaring it endangered, and reduce some wildlife habitat.

Conservation and wildlife groups call the changes U.S. President Donald Trump’s gift to logging, ranching, and oil industries, saying they take a bulldozer through protections for America’s most vulnerable wildlife.

Endangered Species, Environmental, Animal
The environmental law group Earthjustice filed the joint suit Wednesday in San Francisco. Pixabay

A number of congressional Democrats have also denounced the changes, including New York Senator Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi,

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Republican President Richard Nixon signed the act into law in 1973 as part of the response to the new environmental awareness sweeping the country in the early 1970s, which included Earth Day and the Clear Water and Air acts. (VOA)

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All you Need to Know About Animal Culture

Animal culture to conserve endangered species

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Animal culture
Animal culture - the learning of non-human species through socially transmitted behaviour - is being linked to conservation action. Pixabay

For the first time, animal culture – the learning of non-human species through socially transmitted behaviour – is being linked to conservation action, biologists said on Wednesday.

The Convention on the Conservation on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) has been spearheading efforts to use scientific knowledge on animal culture, to better protect endangered wildlife.

Two such proposals were presented to delegates meeting this week in Gandhinagar to consider conservation measures for the eastern tropical pacific sperm whale and the nut-cracking chimpanzee.

Animal culture
The Convention on the Conservation on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)is the only United Nations treaty that addresses migratory species and their habitats. Pixabay

There is evidence that whales, dolphins, elephants and primates acquire some of their knowledge and skills through social learning.

In addition to individual learning, some animals may learn socially from adults or peers about various behaviours, including optimal migration routes.

The concerted action of the sperm whale recognizes the complex social structure within four subspecies. They differ little from each other in their nuclear DNA, but their vocalizations vary considerably, and these can only be acquired through social interaction and learning.

Collecting data through acoustic and photographic records can help conservationists fully understand the social structure of all subspecies. The proposed conservation measures call for research and transboundary information exchange to close knowledge gaps.

The initiative for the nut-cracking chimpanzees highlights the species’ unique technological culture. The species can crack open different types of nut by using stones and pieces of wood as a hammer and anvil.

Despite nuts, stones and wood being commonly available, nut-cracking skills occur only in the most westerly parts of this subspecies’ range spanning Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Co’te d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), and not in other populations across Africa.

Scientists say this cultural capacity enables these chimpanzees to survive dry seasons in their western habitats.

Such behaviour could enhance survival prospects of chimpanzees in areas showing climate induced changes to vegetation.

Animal culture
The Convention on the Conservation on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) has been spearheading efforts to use scientific knowledge to better protect endangered wildlife. Pixabay

Human activities that disrupt the social fabric of culturally developed species can have severe impacts. Once a species has vanished from an area, critical knowledge can also be lost.

For example, the southern right whales’ knowledge of migration routes around New Zealand’s coastline was lost to the species as a result of commercial whaling in the 1800s.

Nowadays, a handful of whales, however have again started to calve around New Zealand.

Recent evidence of genetic mixing among these whales suggests that the species may recolonize forgotten migration destinations once the population recovers from the impact of whaling.

Protecting cultural knowledge among peers and across generations may be vital for the survival and successful reproduction of certain species.

Supporting individuals that act as “repositories” of social knowledge such as elephant matriarchs, or groups of knowledgeable elders, may be just as important as conserving critical habitat.

Understanding how sperm whales pass on valuable information to their offspring or why some groups of chimpanzees have a culture of cracking nutritious nuts with stone tools while others do not, can be key to evaluating conservation challenges for such species.

Scientific research has made significant progress in animal culture. However, it is necessary to develop findings and recommendations that show how this complex issue can be further considered in conservation efforts under CMS.

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CMS is the only United Nations treaty that addresses migratory species and their habitats.

Delegates at the ongoing 13th meeting of the CMS COP13, which India is hosting for the first time, will also consider the need for guidance and implementation tools to mitigate the impacts of linear infrastructure on migratory species. (IANS)

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Activist Greta Thunberg Declines Environmental Prize

But Sofia and Isabella Axelsson quoted Thunberg as saying that “what we need is for our rulers and politicians to listen to the research"

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Activist, Greta Thunberg, Environmental
Greta Thunberg marches in the climate strike through downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada October 25, 2019. VOA

Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has inspired millions across the world to stage protests urging leaders to better tackle global warming, has declined an environmental prize, saying “the climate movement does not need any more prizes.”

Two fellow climate activists spoke on Thunberg’s behalf at an award ceremony Tuesday in Stockholm for the regional inter-parliamentary Nordic Council’s prizes, reading a statement thanking the group for the honor. Thunberg, 16, is currently in California.

But Sofia and Isabella Axelsson quoted Thunberg as saying that “what we need is for our rulers and politicians to listen to the research.”

The Nordic Council hands out annual prizes for literature, youth literature, film, music and the environment, each worth 350,000 Danish kroner ($52,000).

Activist, Greta Thunberg, Environmental
Two fellow climate activists spoke on Thunberg’s behalf at an award ceremony Tuesday in Stockholm for the regional inter-parliamentary Nordic Council’s prizes. Pixabay

It was not the first prize that the climate activist has won or been nominated for.

Three Norwegian lawmakers nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize this year because they believe “the massive movement Greta has set in motion is a very important peace contribution.”

Last year, about three months into her school climate strike campaign, Thunberg declined another award, the Children’s Climate Prize, which is awarded by a Swedish electricity company, because many of the finalists had to fly to Stockholm for the ceremony.

Thunberg notes that flights contribute to global warming, so she sailed across the Atlantic Ocean for two weeks on a zero-emissions sailboat to reach New York. There the Swede scolded a U.N. climate conference in September , repeatedly asking, “How dare you?”

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“We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and yet all you can talk about is money. You are failing us,” she said.

Weeks later, Thunberg won the 2019 Right Livelihood Award, known as the “Alternative Nobel” — “for inspiring and amplifying political demands for urgent climate action reflecting scientific facts.”

In May 2019, she was featured on the cover of Time magazine, which named her a “next generation leader.” (VOA)

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PM Modi Stooped Down to Lift Environmental Awareness

The “greed of capitalists” alone has in fact pricked the body of the ecology

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PM, Modi, Environmental
Frankly speaking, the major changes in our lifestyles and practices are to be blamed. Pixabay

BY SALIL GEWALI 

We should not hold back from doing the right thing. More so when the situation is getting worse day by day. Truly, for numerous reasons, our planet earth is not the same as the one we inherited 50 years ago. We can see a vast difference in the climate now and that of a half-century ago. We have badly messed up with everything mother nature has given us. In many states in India the temperature has almost almost touched 50 – degrees in summer. It is ominous. Many warning bells are repeatedly being tolled by the environmental scientists. PM.

Frankly speaking, the major changes in our lifestyles and practices are to be blamed. Our occupations and the business, and its related production units that send the “smoke” up must be stopped forthwith. The “greed of capitalists” alone has in fact pricked the body of the ecology. It has blackened the atmosphere; it has punctured the ozone layers!

Anyway, the good news is here. To litter our surroundings is a criminal offense now in some of the states in India. Hope we can heave a sigh of relief. Let that be both in letter and spirit. More than anything we have littered and contaminated our “water bodies”, which is ecologically the worst thing ever. Its deleterious impacts upon the environment are very diverse.

In the past three months, I’ve had hot exchanges with a number of people wanting to dump their garbage to the nearby drains/streams. I tried a lot to convince them. Many became convinced too and but some are exceptionally brute. I wonder how do we describe this brand of people! What is very disgusting is that the people with impunity throw the hard-woods, shoes and heaps of clothes, apart from the reeking stuff inside the plastic bags, into the peacefully flowing streams/revers/seas. Some just throw grocery sacks full of garbage into the drains. This is outrageous; it should be held as an “ecological sin”. Such folks can hardly think that garbage can cause the blockage to the drain. Their cerebral nerves must be invariably blocked. They can’t think anything that happens next due to their own acts. There are many NGOs and academic institutions which are serving as watchdogs. They are dedicatedly working to create environmental awareness among the general people. They all deserve a pat on their backs.

PM, Modi, Environmental
Our occupations and the business, and its related production units that send the “smoke” up must be stopped forthwith.

Look at how PM Modi himself stooped to pick up all discarded empty plastic bottles, plates and other garbage recently at Mamallapuram beach in Tamil Nadu. Through this he wants to send out the clear message to each citizen of India that we as an individual citizen must come out to clean our houses, our surroundings and water bodies. He is indeed leaving no stone unturned to sensitize each citizen. Of course, ever since he took over the charge of the highest office, he has been going hammer and tongs at the awareness campaigns of healthy living and mitigation of ecological hazard.

Very importantly, what one feels is that all concerned administrative authorities, all police departments and the conscious citizens must wake up and come out with brooms. Also, let’s capture the pictures of those who commit “criminal offence” of garbage throwing into the drains/streams/seas on our cell phones. We have taken meaningless selfies all these days, now let’s take the snapshots slyly who defile the very face of mother earth. Let’s all act as active whistle-blowers. Let such implicating pictures be shared with Municipality and the Police Department.

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It is worthwhile, apart from the heavy fine, let’s have regulations that the offenders be completely barred from driving their vehicles and operating the bank transaction for a period of one year and the like. If similar acts are repeated then they be further barred from other public facilities as a citizen. These kinds of punitive measures can be a very effective deterrent. What more, if possible, those “pictures of the messy offenders” be “published” in the print media and social media. One is confident that the media houses can play a lead role by exposing unhealthy practice of the offenders. Let they all be burned with shame so that other will not repeat the dirty offence again! Come on, do not mess around any longer.  Moreover, PM Modi himself is stooping down to lift the image of India!

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali

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