Tens of thousands march on White House in rally for climate action – WIll it work?


By Susie Cagle

Organizers called it the largest climate rally in U.S. history, and it was. Depending on who you ask, there were 30,000, 40,000, even 50,000 people in Washington D.C. Sunday to lobby for political action on climate change. Depending on who you ask, the tone was joyous or righteous. And depending on who you ask, those 30,000, 40,000, even 50,000 people were giving President Obama an angry demand, a stern but friendly prodding, or the “support he needs” to take action.


350.org, the Sierra Club, the Hip Hop Caucus, and a comprehensive list of basically anyone in the U.S. who cares about climate changejoined with politicians, investors, indigenous peoples, and an assortment of celebrities (can’t have a climate rally without some celebs!) to rally and lead a march on the White House Sunday afternoon, calling for an end to politics and policies that are cooking our planet to death. For all the serious stuff, it was also a party — chants for justice were mixed in with mini dance parties to pop music. But for all the Gangnam Style, there was an overwhelming sense that, while this rally was a glorious show, it was also indicative of just how bad things have gotten.

“We have a very entrenched system that’s going to really require us to work together for a vision of people, peace, and the planet,” the Green Party’s Jill Stein said in an interview. “We are here for the long haul.”

From fracking and coal to factory farming, activists called for an end to all the little things that are adding up to climate meltdown. But mainly today we were here because of the Keystone XL pipeline — thelong-embattled project to pump vast quantities of tar sands oil from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico, halted a year ago by President Obamaand up for a final decision this spring.


“This President has lifted the hope for the world with his inaugural address, with his State of the Union address. He cannot turn around in two weeks and crush the hopes of the world and his base and the next generation and the children of all species by letting a very dumb and dangerous project go through our country,” Rebuild the Dream’s Van Jones, former green jobs adviser to President Obama, told me. “I think it is up to us to make sure that he does not accept the pipeline. I don’t have any reason to believe at this point that the pipeline won’t go through.”

350.org’s Bill McKibben kicked off the rally in the early afternoon, listing some of the many (many!) different battles being waged nationwide in the war on climate change. “You are the antibodies kicking in as the planet tries to fight its fever,” McKibben said as a Park Police helicopter circled low and slow overhead. “And we have waited a looong time to get started.”

At first glance, it seemed a united front of climate activism, a relatively diverse and good-spirited crowd coming together to make change. It was indeed a broad coalition, but there were definite blocs within the group. Stein told me she wanted to speak at the rally but hadn’t been allowed to, for political reasons. “Fighting climate change” seemed to take on different meanings for different people: Was it marching in a permitted protest through the streets, blockading pipeline construction, or a more extreme escalation?

Within a span of five minutes while paused in front of the White House, I heard a soft rendition of “Down by the Riverside” and a rousing chant of “a-anti-anticapitalista.” Some dressed as polar bears while others wore black bandanas over their faces. Some signs asked nicely; others screamed.


As those tens of thousands circled the White House, President Obama was playing golf in sunny (warmer every day!) Florida with Tiger Woods. By the time the afternoon rolled around and the icy wind picked up, the crowd dispersed (but not until after a rousing round dance led by First Nations peoples from the Idle No More movement).

In all, the rally seemed to mark the end of the beginning of the new environmental movement. But the thing’s gotten so big, it seems to be having a bit of an identity crisis — torn between mainstream and radical aspirations.


In some ways, Sunday’s event was an absolutely historic response to a historic moment. And in some ways, it was exactly the same as these things always have been.

We come, we chant, we go home. So: What’s next?


Threats of Climate Change

Threats of Climate Change

This is a link to a general website with some really awesome info for all the animal lovers! Climate change really is having a huge impact on wildlife around the world. 

“To adequately address the climate crisis we must urgently reduce carbon pollution and prepare for the consequences of global warming, which the world is already experiencing. Combining global outreach with local expertise, WWF:

  • helps people and nature adapt to a changing climate
  • advances policies to fight climate change
  • combats deforestation
  • engages with businesses to reduce carbon emissions
  • challenges U.S. cities to prepare for more extreme weather”

Snow Leopards Need To Be Protected … But How?

Snow Leopards Need To Be Protected ... But How?

Christine Dell’Amore
National Geographic News
Published October 9, 2012

The snow leopard in Pakistan is an endangered species. The population of the rarely seen big cat has likely fallen to fewer than 450 in the country, mainly due to hunting. Now an expert has come up with an unconventional—and controversial—proposal to save the snow leopard: Classify it as a domesticated animal.

That doesn’t mean that snow leopards are literally tame, like a chicken, explained Shafqat Hussain, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer who spoke during the National Geographic Explorers Symposium in Washington, D.C., in June: “When I say that snow leopards are like domestic cats, I mean it rhetorically to make contrast with the word wild.” (National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.)

His idea stems from the changing relationship between snow leopards and humans. Where the cats do remain in the Himalaya, they increasingly share their habitat with mountain herders. A 2010 study of snow leopard scat found that up to 70 percent of the species’ diet in the Gilgit Baltistan Province (map) comes from sheep, cattle, and other domestic animals. Some herders have killed snow leopards in retaliation for preying on their livestock. (See pictures and video of snow leopards in Afghanistan.)

Given the snow leopards’ diet, “how do we see these mythical, elusive wild animals? Are they really wild in the sense that of meaning we attach to the word wild—existing on its own, having no connection with society and domestic economy?” Hussain said.

“Clearly not.”

Supporting Locals

So the way to enable snow leopards to survive, says Hussain, is not to create protected areas that sequester them from local communities. That solution often alienates farmers, who lose their grazing areas as a result. He would suggest supporting local herders instead so they can make a living despite snow leopard incursions. (See snow leopard pictures in National Geographic magazine.)

And that’s exactly what he’s been doing for more than a decade. In 1999 Hussain founded the Snow Leopard Project, an insurance scheme that compensates local people in snow leopard-range countries if their livestock are killed by the predators.

Various branches of the successful project, which is jointly managed by project officials and a committee of villagers, have spread to 400 households covering 3,000 animals across central Asia.

Since 1998, close to U.S. $7,000 has been paid out in compensation for lost animals, and $13,000 invested on improving livestock corrals and other infrastructure. Meanwhile, the snow leopard population seems to have remained stable, if not grown, Hussain said.

Snow Leopard Perspective Controversial

Not everyone agrees. In fact, there is great consternation in the big-cat conservation community about Hussain’s ideas, particularly that conservation groups don’t work with locals. (Learn about National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative.)

Tom McCarthy, executive director of the Snow Leopard Program for the big-cat conservation group Panthera, said that he doesn’t “know a single conservation [nongovernmental organization] working on snow leopards today that would support setting up reserves for the cats at the expense of local people.”

For example, before Hussain set up the Snow Leopard Project, McCarthy and colleagues founded the award-winning Snow Leopard Enterprises, which helps local people in snow leopard countries generate income.

Conservation biologist and snow leopard expert Jerry Roe also said by email that relabeling the snow leopard as domestic will not resolve the conflict between snow leopards and herders or benefit the species.

For one, “a change of definition will not alter the perspective of snow leopards as a pest species in the eyes of herders,” said Roe, co-founder of California-based Nomad Ecology, an ecological consulting and research company.

Living With Snow Leopards

Hussain thinks the objections are just not valid. Local people—at least in Pakistan—do not have an “atavistic enmity to snow leopards, [nor] this itch to kill it,” he said. “If they get compensated for their losses, they have no interest in eliminating this animal.”

Such is the case with Mohammed Ibrahim, chairman of Skoyo Krabathang Basingo Conservation and Development Organization in Krabathang, Pakistan (map), who also owns 15 goats. In a phone interview with an Urdu interpreter, Ibrahim said that he’s not worried about snow leopards, mostly because of insurance schemes such as Project Snow Leopard that compensate herders for lost animals.

And since snow leopards have never been known to attack people, Hussain is confident that his scheme would work far better than a conservation policy that separates the leopards from the locals: “The idea of co-existing with snow leopards is easy to implement if you satisfy the villagers.”

Ultimately, conservationists share the same goal: Ensuring that the snow leopard—what Hussain calls a “symbol of the high mountains”—can survive. Whether that will continue to be an animal dependent on people for food, though, is still up in the air.


5 Surprising Facts About Rare Species

5 Surprising Facts About Rare Species

By Eric Dinerstein, author of The Kingdom of Rarities

What if the organisms that populate the natural world—from whales to weevils—were classified not by their evolutionary relationships but by their relative degree of rarity? Imagine a way of looking at the world where we divide the ark into representatives of two kingdoms: the Kingdom of Common species and the Kingdom of Rarities. Which would require a bigger ark if we only took two of each species?
Surprising facts about rare species:

1. Rare isn’t rare. Most people don’t realize that many, many species on Earth are rare. By rare, we mean having a narrow range, low population density, or both.

Ecologist Kevin Gaston estimated that perhaps 90-95% of all individual organisms on Earth represent no more than 20-25% of all species. That means that up to 75% of all species on Earth are rare in one form or another. Among the two forms of rarity, most take the former condition: species with narrow ranges.

2. Rare hotspots abound. There are about 600 places in the world that contain one or more species who call that spot the only place on Earth they can be found. Some are as large as the Javan rhinoceros or as small as 13 species of tiny frogs in the same genus that live on top of a single mountain in Haiti. Many of these single-site species have cool names, like the Bloody Bay Poison frog.

The group that has spearheaded the conservation of these single site rarities is the Alliance for Zero Extinction, which includes many major conservation groups as members.

3. Goats are enemies. Goats are a scourge when it comes to conserving rarities, especially when it comes to goats on islands, where these introduced herbivores mow down the vegetation and cause the extinction of rare plants.

Except, at least, in the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas, where goats are a force for good in creating more wintering habitat for the rarest breeding songbird in North America, the Kirtland’s warbler. The goats prefer the shrubs that compete with the fruiting-shrubs that form a large part of the winter diet of the warbler. By eating out the shrubs the Kirtland’s avoid, the goats leave more space for the plants whose fruits the birds like to eat. The Kirtland’s warbler may also be the only species with a college named after it: Kirtland’s Community College near Grayling, Michigan.

4. Hawaii hosts a bonanza. The Hawaiian archipelago is America’s Galápagos that hosts more creatures—a group of birds called the honeycreepers, fruit flies, and many kinds of plants like the silverswords—that rival or surpass what Darwin found on the Galápagos. Had The Beagle landed in Hawaii instead of the Galápagos, we would likely be celebrating Hawaii as the cradle of evolutionary thinking.

5. Giant poo. One of the rarest of large mammals, the greater one-horned rhinoceros of Nepal and India, produces up to 24 kilograms in a single defecation. I know, because I weighed it.

Rhinos are a good example of species that were once more common in the past few centuries and made rare by humans hunting them. But the southern white rhino, now threatened by poachers again, is perhaps the greatest success story for conservation: numbering no more than 60 individuals and limited to a single reserve around 1900, the current estimate is above 20,000 and now spread among more than 450 populations. (See photos of “rhino wars.”)

So if we can recover even one of the largest, slowest breeding vertebrates in nature, we can recover many rarities threatened with extinction.

There are many insights into how the natural world works that we can only glean by studying its rarities. The challenge is that it is often much harder for scientists to study rare species than to study common ones. But if we are to save some semblance of our natural world for future generations, the roster of rarities plays an important role that I hope my book helps to illuminate.