Just Another Trump Horror: 

New Bill Weakens Endangered Species Act and Why You Should Care

by Andree Singer Thompson

8/22/2019

 

TODAY'S NEWS   

 

The US Interior Department announced significant changes Monday August 19, 2019 that would weaken how the Endangered Species Act is implemented, a move critics fear will allow for more oil and gas drilling and limit how much regulators consider the impacts of the climate crisis. Washington (CNN)

The Endangered Species Act is one of the nations’ most significant pieces of legislation, providing help for flora and fauna on the brink of extinction.  Signed into law by President Nixon in 1973, it is credited with saving hundreds of species (grizzly bear, bald eagle, American alligator, ie). Under this law, any new use of land for building must not interfere with any of the listed plants or animals and prove its case before proceeding. San Francisco Chronicle August 13, 2019.

The administration’s changes redefines long term threats and “foreseeable future.” Things like global warming may not be considered when considering protection of a specific species.  It also allows the federal government to evaluate the economic costs of wildlife protection. San Francisco Chronicle 

All a windfall for industry groups such as mining, logging, oil and gas projects. "The climate crisis underlies so much of the extinction crisis," but the rule could make it more difficult to use the climate data to protect species in the US, said Rebecca Riley, legal director of the nature program for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Riley said the rule would also create an exemption to critical habitats that exist because of the results of the climate crisis such as sea level rise.

 

THE EXTINCTION CRISIS

  • Extinction is a natural phenomenon, it normally occurs at a natural “background” rate of about one to five species per year. Scientists estimate we’re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the “background” rate, with dozens going extinct every day.[5]

  • As many as 30 to 50 percent of all species, more than 28,000, are possibly heading toward extinction by mid-century.[6] 

  • 99% of currently threatened species are at risk from human activities, primarily those driving habitat loss, introduction of exotic species, and global warming[7]

On average, we’ve seen an astonishing 60% decline in the size of populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians in just over 40 years, according to WWF’s Living Planet Report 2018. The top threats to species identified in the report link directly to human activities, including habitat loss and degradation and the excessive use of wildlife such as overfishing and overhunting. 

WWF Living Planet Report 2018 

“Nature is declining at rates unprecedented in human history,” said Jane Smart, director of the IUCN biodiversity conservation group. She said decisive action was needed to halt the decline, with next year’s UN biodiversity convention summit in China seen as crucial. 

 

WHY SAVE ENDANGERED SPECIES? 

The health of an ecosystem is maintained by its plants and animals. When species become endangered, it is a sign of an ecosystem’s imbalance.

All living things are part of a complex, often delicately balanced network called the biosphere, which is comprised of ecosystems. No one knows how the extinction of organisms will affect the other organisms in the ecosystem, but the removal of a single species can set off a chain reaction that can have deleterious effects for the system as a whole. 

The conservation of endangered species is important for humans as well. A well-balanced ecosystem purifies the environment, giving us clean air to breathe, a healthy water system to support diverse marine life, and arable land for agricultural production. It also provides us with unique plants with medicinal properties, which serve as the foundation of our medicines. When ecosystems fail, our own health is at risk. By saving endangered species, we are ultimately saving ourselves.

There are specific benefits of conserving species, which can be thought of as “values.” These values include consumptive (e.g., harvesting, fishing, medicine), non-consumptive (e.g., wildlife viewing, ecosystem balance, ecotourism, cultural heritage), and non-use (e.g., species existence) benefits that people derive from species diversity. 11/01/2018   Official website of the Department of Homeland Security

By examining six projects in Africa, Latin America and Asia, the new report shows that WWF's work to save endangered wildlife helps eradicate poverty and hunger, as well as promote sustainable and fair development in rural areas.

Conservation and sustainable management of species and their habitats means better protection of forest, freshwater and marine habitats. As a result, the rural poor who depend on these areas have more access to the goods and services they provide. Incomes increase and access to freshwater, health, education and women's rights also  improve.  WWF

 

THE CHALLENGE

As environmental artists/activists/educators, how can we best use our talents,  imaginations and intelligence to create works that combat the horrors of this administration, help educate the public and advocate for a healthy environment?  The challenges are to Move people to learn, understand, to vote, to be informed enough to care about life on this planet for the next seven generations. Meanwhile, let us be grateful for and even learn from young activists (like Greta and Our Children’s Trust,etc )  whose lives are most affected, and who are becoming public and vocal, the hope of the future. 

 I invite you to add to this conversation with your ideas. 

- Andree Singer Thompson

WEAD Board Member 2019

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