The connection between coronavirus and wildlife exploitation

April 6, 2020 by  
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With the constant string of coronavirus coverage seizing social media, news outlets and pretty much every aspect of everyday life, citizens around the world are turning to the experts for information. While many Americans are focused on the future, whether it be economically, socially or medically, there are experts and scientists behind the scenes looking to the past. Finding the source of this virus will help ensure that another outbreak of this magnitude does not happen again, and many experts are investigating wildlife exploitation as a possible cause. The beginning of COVID-19 When the Chinese government first alerted the World Health Organization about the virus on December 31, 2019, a wet market in Wuhan was quickly identified as the likely source. Out of the first 41 initial patients reported with the disease, 27 had been either inside or exposed to the market. The world had already seen something similar in 2002, when the virus causing the SARS disease had its origin linked to a similar market in Southern China, eventually spreading to 29 countries and killing about 800 people. The SARS outbreak began when bats were linked to the spread of a virus in civet cats transferred to humans by consumption. Similarly, the MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) outbreak in 2017 spread from bats to camels to humans. Related: Coronavirus and its impact on carbon emissions The wildlife trade in Asia often includes the selling and transporting of animals while they are still alive, making it particularly risky to human health. Legalization of the wildlife farming industry in China to help curb the poverty levels decades ago meant that smaller farms that caught and sold wildlife, such as turtles and snakes, were growing in operation and eventually selling their animals at the same wet markets along with conventional livestock , such as pigs and chickens. Eventually, endangered animals began showing up in markets illegally, leading to even more exotic animal interactions with humans. Finding the source of this coronavirus According to the CDC, the exact source of the COVID-19 virus remains unknown, though they suspect it was caused by an animal virus that mutated and adapted to infect and spread between humans. “Public health officials and partners are working hard to identify the source of COVID-19,” the CDC reported. “The first infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now spreading from person to person. The coronavirus most similar to the virus causing COVID-19 is the one that causes SARS.” When the virus was first detected, DNA experts suggested that the origin of COVID-19 was likely related to bats, specifically, as was the case with SARS. A Nature study published in early February 2020 pointed to these winged animals as the most likely indirect source of the new coronavirus, which at that time had only been confirmed in about 10 countries. New evidence has suggested that it may have spread from a pangolin, the most heavily trafficked animal in the world, after a virus sickening Malayan pangolins was found to be almost identical to the coronavirus detected in sick humans. Dr. Kristian Anderson of the Scripps Research Institute told the New York Times that while none of her data suggested that pangolins served as an intermediate host, that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. “Dr. Andersen said there are several paths the new virus could have taken. Assuming that it began with a bat virus, it could have jumped directly to humans, although that didn’t happen in the other coronavirus outbreaks of SARS and MERS,” the New York Times reported . “Or it could have passed from a bat to another animal, one of the many that humans hunt, raise for food and sell in markets.” What makes COVID-19 different Dr. Fauci told PBS that animal viruses mutate all the time , though they rarely have any significant impact on humans. Sometimes the mutations allow for single “dead-end” transmissions to individuals without the ability to spread from human to human directly, as was the case with the H5N1 and H7N9 influenzas (also known as the “bird flu”). “But rarely, animal viruses mutate and the mutation allows them not only to jump species to humans, but to also efficiently spread from human to human,” Dr. Fauci explained. “That is what we saw in SARS and now we see this with 2019-nCoV, which seems to have adapted itself very well to human to human transmission, as per what is happening in China.” Wildlife connection In an interview with Vox , EcoHealth Alliance veterinarian and epidemiologist Jonathan Epstein said that learning more about the connection between zoonotic (meaning the disease originated in animals) pathogens in humans is instrumental in ensuring that outbreaks like this one don’t occur in the future. He was involved in finding the animal source for the SARS outbreak back in 2002. “Right now, we have a lot of attention focused on containing this outbreak, which is spreading from person to person, but a critical question we still need to understand is, ‘How did the first person get infected with this?’” he told Vox. “Because that’s where we need to focus efforts to make sure that that doesn’t happen again.” According to Epstein, about half of known human pathogens are zoonotic. Even more concerning, three-quarters of emerging diseases are zoonotic, and most of those come from wild animals. There are also a number of experts who suggest that humanity’s destruction of animal habitats is partly to blame. Back in 2008, a team led by chair of ecology and biodiversity at UCL Kate Jones found that 60% of the 335 diseases identified between 1960 and 2004 came from animals. Jones linked these zoonotic diseases to both environmental changes and human behaviors. Ecological disruption, urbanization and population growth were all driving factors bringing humans and livestock closer and closer to the types of wild animals that they had never been exposed to before. Looking toward the future When the latest coronavirus outbreak began, the central government in Beijing issued a temporary ban on wild animal trading, but the ban was only designed to stay in effect until the epidemic situation was lifted globally. The London-based nonprofit group Environmental Investigation Agency has even found evidence that online sellers in Asia were attempting to sell illegal medicines containing wild animal parts as cures for COVID-19. Clearly, this is not the first virus to be linked to wildlife , and conservationists and scientists around the world are calling for a permanent end to the global wildlife trade in order to stop the next epidemic before it begins. Others are supporting monitoring captive breeding of certain species or, at the very least, a trade ban on specific high-risk animals. For many experts who specialize in animal welfare, the issue has superseded mere conservation and transformed into an issue of public health and biosafety. According to a statement released in February 2020 by the National People’s Congress, officials in Beijing have already drafted legislation to ban wildlife trade and consumption in China. Images via CDC and João Manuel Lemos Lima

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A heritage industrial site becomes a dreamy wilderness retreat in Australia

April 6, 2020 by  
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In the middle of Australia’s deepest lake, a historic industrial site has been reborn as Pumphouse Point, a charming getaway perfect for nature lovers and adventure seekers. Designed by architecture firm Cumulus Studio , the boutique accommodation is the realization of tourism developer Simon Currant’s 18-year vision to thoughtfully and sustainably make a portion of Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area more accessible to travelers. The grounds comprise a collection of buildings, two of which were renovated from heritage-listed Art Deco buildings, originally part of the Hydro Electric scheme. Originally constructed in 1940, the five-story pump house that was built as part of the state’s Hydro Electricity Scheme had been used to pump water from Lake St. Clair to the nearby St. Lake Lagoon. The building was decommissioned in the early ’90s and sat unused for decades. Today, the site has become home to a unique, 18-room boutique property that is housed in three buildings: the new-build “Retreat”, “The Pumphouse” and “The Shorehouse.” The latter two are refurbished historic buildings. The Shorehouse, which was the original Hydro substation, also includes a new dining and lounge extension. Related: 1850s barn in Italy becomes a modern, sustainable family home In keeping with the values of the World Heritage Site, in which the property is located, the Cumulus team retained the existing buildings’ footprints and minimally modified the exteriors. In contrast, the interiors are strikingly contemporary yet still minimalist to keep focus on the outdoors. A neutral palette of timber and metal imparts a “rugged simplicity” that also alludes to the site’s history. Due to Pumphouse Point’s remote location and the tight project budget, the architects turned to prefabrication and simple construction techniques to streamline the building process. In addition to spectacular views, Pumphouse Point guests can also enjoy nature walks, lake excursions, biking trails and more. Other than newborns and infants, the boutique property does not accommodate anyone under the age of 18. + Cumulus Studio Photography by Adam Gibson via Cumulus Studio

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A heritage industrial site becomes a dreamy wilderness retreat in Australia

Earth911 Inspiration: Mokokoma Mokhonoana on Farming Just To Eat

August 16, 2019 by  
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Earth911 inspirations. Post them, share your desire to help people … The post Earth911 Inspiration: Mokokoma Mokhonoana on Farming Just To Eat appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Earth911 Inspiration: Mokokoma Mokhonoana on Farming Just To Eat

Climate change will push 120 million into poverty

June 27, 2019 by  
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New studies by the United Nations and Stanford University show that the extreme weather and hotter temperatures associated with climate change are — not surprisingly — making the poor poorer and the rich richer. According to the U.N., this “climate apartheid” will result in 120 million more people living in poverty by 2030. The ability to survive extreme weather is a major determining factor, with the wealthiest people frequently able to relocate, protect their assets and build back. On the other hand, the poorest people are displaced, with their homes and economic resources destroyed. Rural communities and women are particularly vulnerable, given their direct dependence on natural resources for their livelihoods and the risk of droughts, floods and storms to decimate these resources. Related: Low-income housing in flood zones traps families in harm’s way “We risk a ‘climate apartheid’ scenario where the wealthy pay to escape overheating, hunger and conflict while the rest of the world is left to suffer,” said Philip Alston, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. CNN paints a clear picture with the example of Hurricane Sandy in New York, where thousands of people in housing projects spent weeks without electricity, while the Goldman Sachs headquarters was barricaded with sandbags and up and running on privately funded generators. According to researchers at Stanford, global warming is also helping wealthy countries be more productive. While tropical islands and warmer countries see a decrease in Gross Domestic Product that the researchers attribute to global warming, countries like Norway and Canada have actually seen a significant increase in economic prosperity. This news is likely not enough to sway countries to stick to their Paris Agreement commitments to limit carbon emissions, even when the poorest countries emit the least and suffer the most. Aston said, “Perversely, while people in poverty are responsible for just a fraction of global emissions , they will bear the brunt of climate change and have the least capacity to protect themselves.” + United Nations Via CNN Image via Bertsz

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Climate change will push 120 million into poverty

Are you ready for Fair Trade … plastics?

May 13, 2019 by  
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A new project from The Body Shop aims to ensure informal plastic recyclers who live below the poverty line have sustainable livelihoods.

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Why values matter in combating climate change

May 13, 2019 by  
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Focusing on intrinsic and less materialistic rewards, as well as cooperation, can empower us to take action together.

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Rolling coffee cups into the circular economy

May 13, 2019 by  
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Sponsored: Sustana Fiber is addressing challenges in the recyclability of paper cups, providing sustainable packaging options for environmentally conscious brands.

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Rolling coffee cups into the circular economy

Women are essential to climate resilience in the Caribbean heres why

February 7, 2019 by  
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The impacts of climate change are felt most intimately by poor and rural women. Many women rely directly on nature for their income, and their lack of resources prevents them from shifting to alternate jobs or safer locations during disasters. However, the same factors that make women vulnerable — their connection to nature and ties to community — are also the strengths that make women critical and competent leaders in times of crises. In the Caribbean, climate experts are increasingly looking at not only at how they can include female perspectives to alleviate inequalities, but how they can empower women to lead the way toward resilience. Women and climate vulnerability According to a UN Population Fund report , “The poor are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and the majority of the 1.5 billion people living on $1 a day or less are women.” With men leaving rural communities to find jobs in urban areas or overseas, women in the country-side are often the primary — and in many cases the sole — caretaker and breadwinner for their families. Many women lack the freedom, flexibility and mobility to relocate or readjust their lives for work, or for safety when disasters hit. Small islands are on the front lines of climate change The Caribbean region is particularly vulnerable, with small rises in sea level and temperatures having drastic consequences ranging from flooding, severe erosion and massive die-off of coral reefs to consecutive category five hurricanes. Caribbean nations depend on natural resources for their economies — namely agriculture, fisheries and coastal tourism. With so much at stake, Caribbean leaders united to demand world leaders commit to curbing global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius, arguing that the agreed upon increase of 2 degrees would be catastrophic. As small islands fight to have their struggles and solutions heard in global debates about global warming, they are also fighting for the muffled, but mighty voices of women. Women, advocates argue, are accustomed to being resilient, community-driven and goal oriented — especially when it comes to the goal of feeding their families. “In climate change decision making, when women are in control in critical large numbers, we see the emphasis placed on the social issues of housing, refugees, food , food security — in a way that doesn’t happen if women are absent,” said Dessima Williams, Grenada’s previous ambassador to the UN and Chair of the Association of Small Island States. Related: The world is close to annihilation according to the iconic Doomsday Clock Natural disasters exacerbate inequalities During natural disasters, limited resources are further diminished. Limited jobs — such as clearing roads and restoring power — are often earmarked for men. Social services, such as child care, are slow to restart, preventing women from returning to work as swiftly as their male counter parts. “Homelessness and overcrowding in damaged homes, reduced income, health problems, lack of transportation, disrupted social services and other disaster effects impact women disproportionately, exacerbating preexisting power imbalances between women and men,” wrote  Dr. Elain Enarson in her book, Women Confronting Natural Disasters: From Vulnerability to Resilience . Women are part of the solution Sustainable development experts argue that a power shift to give women decision-making authority would not only uplift women and their dependents, but societies as a whole. In fact, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s website stated, “Women’s participation at the political level has resulted in greater responsiveness to citizen’s needs, often increasing cooperation across party and ethnic lines and delivering more sustainable peace.” Recognizing the benefits of including women in decision making, the Caribbean region has hosted a number of meetings to spur discussion on including gender perspectives into climate adaptation strategies. “There needs to be dialogue, learning and listening. The power relationships determine how action on climate change is played out and the success rate of projects to deal with climate change,” Vijay Krishnarayan, director general of the Commonwealth Foundation, said at a regional meeting on the intersection of gender and climate change in the Caribbean. Related: Is the Green New Deal the all-inclusive climate plan we need? “Much more needs to be done to completely capitalize on women’s potential, requiring methods that encompass their access to education and quality training, to economic resources and financial services, and to new forms of financing,” Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean Alicia Bárcena underscored at a High-Level Political Forum at the UN headquarters. The inclusion of women is not unique to the Caribbean, and leaders throughout developing nations have united to recognize the importance of sharing successful solutions across continents and then enabling women’s leadership in implementing localized projects that fit for their own communities. “A lot of women have developed micro-level adaptation approaches, indigenous solutions and traditional knowledge that are not being replicated at the macro level,” said Kalyani Raj, a representative from India during a climate conference in Paris. “We must recognize that women are not just victims, we are powerful agents for change. Therefore, women need to be included in the decision-making processes and allowed to contribute their unique expertise and knowledge to adapt to climate change, because any climate change intervention that excludes women’s perspective and any policy that is gender blind, is destined to fail.” Via Panos Caribbean Images via Shutterstock

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Women are essential to climate resilience in the Caribbean heres why

Pope Francis calls on oil executives to transition to clean power

June 11, 2018 by  
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Pope Francis hasn’t been quiet about the urgency of combating climate change . Most recently, during a two-day conference in Vatican City, he took oil company executives to task and called for clean power as climate change continues to threaten people and the environment . The pope said, “Civilization requires energy , but energy use must not destroy civilization.” The conference gathered experts, investors and oil executives who support scientific opinion that human activity has caused climate change. The 50 participants included ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods, BP  group chief executive Bob Dudley and Equinor (formerly Statoil) CEO Eldar Sætre. Pope Francis said it was worrying that searches for new fossil fuel reserves still continue, and said, “There is no time to lose.” Related: Catholic churches to make massive divestment from fossil fuels Pope Francis said, “We know that the challenges facing us are interconnected. If we are to eliminate poverty and hunger … the more than one billion people without electricity today need to gain access to it. But that energy should also be clean, by a reduction in the systematic use of fossil fuels. Our desire to ensure energy for all must not lead to the undesired effect of a spiral of extreme climate changes due to a catastrophic rise in global temperatures, harsher environments and increased levels of poverty.” The pope called for attendees to comprise the core of leaders “who envision the global energy transition in a way that will take into account all the peoples of the earth, as well as future generations and all species and ecosystems.” Pope Francis said our situation is dire, and even after the 2015 Paris Agreement , carbon dioxide emissions are still high. The New York Times quoted him as saying, “We received the earth as a garden-home from the Creator. Let us not pass it on to future generations as a wilderness.” Via The Guardian , Reuters  and The New York Times Images via Aleteia Image Department/Flickr , Depositphotos

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Pope Francis calls on oil executives to transition to clean power

Yellowstone superintendent says the Trump administration forced him out of his job due to wildlife advocacy

June 11, 2018 by  
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Yellowstone National Park superintendent Dan Wenk says he was forced out of his position by President Donald Trump’s administration because of his wildlife advocacy, The Guardian reported . Former National Park Service director Jon Jarvis told the publication the move was meant to make Wenk into an example to weaken a culture of conservation . Wenk said, “It’s a hell of a way to be treated at the end of four decades spent trying to do my best for the park service and places like Yellowstone, but that’s how these guys are. Throughout my career, I’ve not encountered anything like this, ever.” Last week, the United States Department of the Interior (DOI) told Wenk, who has been the Yellowstone superintendent since 2011, that he must accept a reassignment to the Capital Region in Washington, D.C. in 60 days or resign. The Guardian said Wenk had been outspoken about creating more room for wild bison to ramble outside the national park to Montana, a move opposed by the cattle industry, which comprises a core section of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke ‘s constituency. Wenk had also questioned proposed sport hunting of grizzly bears. Related: US DOI scientist claims he was reassigned for speaking up on climate change Jarvis told The Guardian that preservation in large parks, largely in Alaska and the American West, conflicts with Zinke’s hopes to increase industrial development and monetize natural resources located on public lands . He said that Zinke “holds little regard for the esprit de corps traditions of the park service. Dan [Wenk] was set up as the first domino to fall.” An April 2018 Office of Inspector General at the DOI report scrutinized the reassignment of 27 senior executives between June 15, 2017 and October 29, 2017 and discovered the DOI’s Executive Resources Board “did not document its plan for selecting senior executives for reassignment, nor did it consistently apply the reasons it stated it used to select senior executives for reassignment.” They also found the board “did not gather the information needed to make informed decisions about the reassignments” and didn’t effectively communicate with the senior executives or most managers impacted by the reassignments. The report said, “As a result, many of the affected senior executives questioned whether these reassignments were political or punitive, based on a prior conflict with DOI leadership, or on the senior executive’s nearness to retirement. Many executives…believed their reassignment may have been related to their prior work assignments, including climate change , energy, or conservation.” Via The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons (1)

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Yellowstone superintendent says the Trump administration forced him out of his job due to wildlife advocacy

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