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The United Nations Should Use Its Power to Save the Amazon Rainforest | Take Action Tuesday @EarthFoodLife

September 3, 2019
Forests on fire: The map above, created by the NASA Earth Observatory, shows active fire detections across the Amazon rainforest as observed by NASA satellites between August 15-22, 2019. In terms of fire activity in the Amazon, “August 2019 stands out because it has brought a noticeable increase in large, intense, and persistent fires burning along major roads in the central Brazilian Amazon,” according to the space agency. “While drought has played a large role in exacerbating fires in the past, the timing and location of fire detections early in the 2019 dry season are more consistent with land clearing than with regional drought.” Much of the Amazon’s land clearance is to satisfy the world’s taste for meat: 91 percent of its deforestation since 1970 is due to cattle ranching, according to the World Bank. And a big slice of that can be traced back to BlackRock, the world’s largest investment firm—and one of the largest investors in Brazil’s agribusiness industry.

Marjorie Cohn, a professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former deputy secretary-general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, argues that it’s time for the United Nations to step in. “As empowered by the United Nations Charter, the Security Council should find that the fires in the Amazon pose a ‘threat to the peace’ and order measures to restore and maintain international peace and security. Those measures ‘may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations,’” she writes. “The Council should require that member states refrain from entering into trade agreements with Brazil unless and until it agrees to allow international economic and physical firefighting assistance.”

Change: The Amazon continues to burn. Dramatic and swift action needs to take place, and one political body that has the power to take this action is the United Nations. Due to the powers vested in its Charter, the U.N. can “take action on the issues confronting humanity in the 21st century, such as peace and security, climate change, sustainable development, human rights, disarmament, terrorism, humanitarian and health emergencies, gender equality, governance, food production, and more.” The Amazon wildfire crisis checks many of these boxes. Specifically, the U.N. could: 1) send in immediate humanitarian support to all the Indigenous and local groups who have lost their homes and way of life, 2) coordinate a large-scale effort with Brazil and neighboring countries to fight the fires in the most high risk areas, such as those threatening Indigenous communities, wildlife habitats and the most fragile ecosystems, and 3) create economic sanctions on unsustainable logging and cattle ranching in Brazil.
>>>Urge the United Nations to use its authority to save the Amazon rainforest.

Wolf Conservation Center: Wolves once ranged across most of North America, a vital part of many varied ecosystems. But by 1950, an unremitting slaughter by humans brought wolves to the brink of extinction. After its passage in 1973, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) provided protection for wolves, allowing them to begin the process of recovery. The ESA has worked successfully for over four-and-a-half decades to prevent the extinction of 99 percent of the species placed under its protection. Moreover, the ESA is popular: A recent national poll found that the law is supported by 90 percent of American voters. But despite its success and public support, the ESA is under political attack.
>>>Urge your Congressional representatives to protect the Endangered Species Act.

Nonhuman Rights Project: Beulah, Karen and Minnie are three wild-born elephants who have been held captive and exploited for over three decades by the Commerford Zoo, a traveling circus cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture more than 50 times for violating minimum standards of the Animal Welfare Act. Beulah, Karen and Minnie are forced to perform at circuses and fairs where they are required to give rides despite Beulah’s painful foot disorder and Minnie’s aggression from years of psychological abuse that has resulted in her attacking handers and the public. Clearly, the Commerford Zoo values profits over the elephants’ well-being or human safety. These highly intelligent, autonomous, self-aware beings deserve the opportunity to live the life that was stolen from them so long ago. Beulah, Karen and Minnie should be immediately transferred to the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), a preeminent elephant sanctuary in the United States that has agreed to provide the elephants with refuge and lifelong care at no cost to the Commerford Zoo.
>>>Urge the Commerford Zoo to release Beulah, Karen and Minnie to PAWS.

Cause for concern…

The other greenhouse gas: The Trump administration said it is aiming to rescind an Obama-era regulation that limits the amount of methane—a primary component of natural gas and one of the main pollutants linked to climate change—that oil and gas companies can emit. “This would be a huge step backward,” said Ben Ratner, a senior director at the Environmental Defense Fund, which points out that methane is 84 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide in the first two decades after its release. “It would cause greatly increased pollution and a big missed opportunity to take cost-effective immediate action to reduce the rate of warming right now.” Environmental groups have vowed to fight the move in the courts.​ (Graphic: Global Carbon Project)

Round of applause…

Do not disturb: From August 17-28, 182 countries and the European Union, all members of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), considered proposals for more than 500 species. And while the votes were often politically or economically motivated, more than 130 species secured protections for the first time, with nine species getting increased protections from international trade. African elephants notched a major win: a near-complete ban on their capture and transport from some African nations to zoos and other captive facilities abroad. Endangered mako sharks scored a new level of protection. And the Indian star tortoise, one of the world’s most heavily trafficked tortoises, received a ban on their international commercial trade. (Photo credit: Jacob.jose/Wikimedia Commons)

What we’re reading…

Under fire: In his new book “Rainforest: Dispatches from Earth’s Most Vital Frontlines” (Island Press, 2019), preeminent conservationist Tony Juniper provides a comprehensive look at the critical role that rainforests play in the planet’s complex ecological web—and why the survival of all species, including us, is tied to theirs. “[R]ainforests are among the most important of the Earth’s carbon stores and their preservation and restoration is one of the least expensive actions that we can take to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, remove carbon from the atmosphere, and in the process help avoid the worst effects of climate change,” writes Juniper, chair of Natural England, the United Kingdom’s official government conservation agency. He also offers the cautionary​​ of Indonesia, which “largely erased its rainforests over two decades, aided by the World Bank and the IMF—and multinationals.”

Milk’s true cost: In “The Cow with Ear Tag #1389” (University of Chicago Press, 2018), animal studies scholar Kathryn Gillespie offers an incisive examination of the dairy industry—from the disturbing animal welfare issues that underscore the commodification of animals, to the destructive impact that mankind’s taste for milk, cheese and ice cream is having on the environment—demonstrated by her titular cow. She writes that, in doing research for this book, “The grocery store became a site for mourning: the innocuous refrigerators filled with milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, and eggs; the freezers of ice cream; the cases of meat, neatly packaged and priced—these suddenly became, to me, the products of immeasurable violence.”

Healthier living: “On any given day, we are exposed to toxic chemicals that can enter our bodies through the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the products we encounter via our skin,” writes Janet Newman in her book “Living in the Chemical Age” (Lioncrest, 2018). “Most of these chemicals are man-made and didn’t exist before the Industrial Age, so our bodies haven’t had an evolutionary chance to adapt,” she notes, offering several strategies to keep us safe, from reducing exposure to toxic chemicals in our kitchens, to houseplants that can help detoxify indoor air.

Parting thought…

“We cannot treat this in isolation. We cannot solve climate change without biodiversity.” —Cristiana Paşca Palmer, Executive Secretary of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity

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