Nature conservancy trashed

Recently, members of the Tusket River Environmental Protection Association discovered a dumpsite at the end of the Coldstream Road in Quinan.

Waste Check enforcement officer Ritchie Nickerson and waste compliance inspector Lyndsay Price visited the dumpsite.

Nickerson examined the dumped bags, searching for names or identification. With no success there, he contacted the landowners – the Nature Conservancy of Canada -to let them know about the situation.

The conservancy is sending representatives to help with the July 30 cleanup and TREPA and Waste Check are assisting, given the size and nature of the site and because the owner of the land is a non-profit, environmentally oriented organization.

During the cleanup, Nickerson will investigate further in an effort to identify the person(s) responsible for dumping the waste. He will also suggest gating off the area to prevent further dumping and will provide “No Dumping” signs to be posted.

Price says illegal dumping of this size is very harmful to the environment and is a hazard to wildlife and surrounding habitats.

“Illegal dumpsites this large are not as common as some of the other illegal dumping complaints we receive, such as dumping in someone else’s dumpster or at their curbside, or throwing bags of garbage or bulky items (mattresses, furniture) into a ditch or a gravel lot, etc.,” she said.

Waste Check receives over 100 illegal dumping complaints per year of varying sizes and locations. Illegal dumping is, and will be, a consistent issue, but due to the presence of the enforcement officer, illegal dumping has not grown to be a completely overwhelming problem, she added.

The officer follows up on every complaint and resolves many of the issues.

Price says many rural areas are subject to illegal dumping activities. The number of complaints reported in southwestern Nova Scotia is comparable to nearby regions.

“Areas that have compliance and enforcement staff to follow up the complaints will see fewer large dumpsites or will have more resolved cases and cleanups as a result,” she said.

Illegal dumpsites can be reported to Waste Check at 1-800-569-0039. Those who know of others who are illegally disposing their waste can call the same number to report the violation.

The free My Waste mobile app for Yarmouth and Digby counties can also be downloaded in order to use the Report-A-Problem feature.

Users can upload a picture, description, and GPS coordinates of the illegal dumpsite right from their mobile device. It can be reported anonymously if need be, and Waste Check will promptly follow up.

 

Article source: http://www.thevanguard.ca/News/Local/2014-07-28/article-3815177/Nature-conservancy-trashed/1

First dinosaur ever found with both feathers and scales

Feathers may have evolved in the earliest of dinosaurs, not only among the theropods that evolved into birds, surmise surprised paleontologists eyeing a new-found fossil herbivore with the tell-tale plumes – as well as scales, found in Siberia.

This is the first dinosaur found with feathers that isn’t a theropod, which is the family including the likes of T-rex and velociraptors, says the team of paleontologists, led by Pascal Godefroit of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.

Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus was a meter-long plant-eater dating from the middle Jurassic (the era after the Triassic). It seems to have looked rather like a giant chicken, with tiny little arms like a miniature T-rex, a short snout, and a lizard-like long tail.

Not only did this peaceful plant-eater have feathers – it also had scales, leading the paleo team leading the study to conclude in their paper published in Science that “featherlike structures coexisted with scales and were potentially widespread among the entire dinosaur clade.”

The beast had small scales on its shins and bigger ones on its tail. It seems to have had a downy plume on the head and more featherlike structures on its chest and legs.

Based on fossil finds so far, theropods and the dinosaurian ancestors of the birds split 220 million years ago, indicating that they shared a feathered ancestor. With this discovery, paleontologists are wondering whether all early dinosaurs had proto-feathers.

The first feathered dinosaur was found in 1996 in China. Many have since come to light. One reason feathered fossils are hard to find is that the filaments are finer than bones and don’t last well. n

Scientists believe that feathers originally evolved as insulation, like fur – a body covering for warmth that had nothing to do with flight. The adaptation of the feather to flight was a later development, they think.

Some also postulate that exotic coloring in the feathers served in communications, based on the fact that birds and animals use body colors to signal. (Think peacock fanning its tail, or baboon presenting its bright-red rear as sexual signals; or us wearing bright clothing, jewelry, and so on.)

If we assume that all Triassic dinosaurs had feathers, then we must conclude the feathery coat disappeared in some animals, for instance the ones like ankylosaurs which developed armor.

Four wings but couldn’t fly

Earlier this month China’s fertile fossil fields produced yet another feathered weirdo – an animal with four wings that, nonetheless, the paleo set thinks couldn’t fly, certainly not well. At most it may have glided from treetops, they speculate.

This one was a meat-eater named Changyuraptor yangi, and had extraordinarily long tail feathers – the longest found in any dinosaur so far – a good 30 centimeters in length.

Like our giant beakless chicken, the yangi had feather-covered forelimbs akin to wings as well as legs covered in feathers, leading paleontologists to speculate that it sort of glided like a “flying squirrel” with four wings. This was no midget either, at about 1.3 meters long, and though it looked rather like a bird – it was not, say the paleos. The earliest-known real bird is the famous Archaeopteryx, which lived about 150 million years ago.

Article source: http://www.haaretz.com/life/nature-environment/1.607358

Mangroves, an environment system of national value

International Day of the Mangroves falls today. On this day people in coastal regions all over the world, call for the conservation of precious mangrove areas.

Mangroves are an ecologically significant and economically productive eco-system. The protective and social functions of tropical mangrove ecosystems provide us reason to conserve and manage them sustainably. In addition to the biodiversity, local communities depend on this coastal ecology for their food and livelihood. The destruction of mangrove areas means that these communities lose their only source of income. In response to the growing demand for mangrove protection, Environment and Renewable Energy Minister Susil Premajayantha has decided to preserve the mangrove environment as an environment system of national value.

Mangrove areas are a powerful factor for economic survival of the people in addition to the environmental well-being. The mangrove plant system can be introduced as the wonderful plant species grown in terrains which are affected by the high tides in the dusk and exposed to low tides in the morning. The brackish water of the estuaries and lagoons in the Inter Tidal Zone is known as the margin, where land and water are connected.

It is grown by converting to an acrimonious environment against the anhydrous environment factors which are briny where normal plants are unable to sustain and live. Mangrove environments get the incomparable place in the vegetable kingdom as an environmental factor, which has not drawn the attention of many up to now. They absorb the carbon unhealthy to human beings and the environment, and get rid of natural disasters related to spherical warmth and prevent the erosion of the coast.

Species found in mangroves

A large number of species are born in the land related to the mangroves. They are protected there and obtain food for their living from the mangroves. In addition, the contribution given for the progression of the human economy through the various mangrove environments is numerous. According to a study conducted by the Wetlands International and nature conservancy institutions, the mangrove system has a powerful competence for calming down the buffet caused by the strong wind. The mangrove system has the propensity of reducing the height of the buffet developed into ardency originated by the excessive wind, from the position of 13 percent to 66 percent in a range of mangrove forests prevailing in a piece of land of 100 metres. The service accomplished by the mangrove as a preservative cover in preventing the erosion of coast too is immense. It is the opinion of environmentalists that if there had been an environment system at the coastal border, a huge calamity due to ferocious sea waves flowing to the island through Pereliya in the Southern Province, when our country faced the Tsunami in 2004, could not have happened. They indicate that when Ampara and Potuvil were affected, Panama village situated adjacent to those villages, escaped because of the mangrove cover adjoining the coast.

A large number of benefits are provided to humans and the environment due to mangroves. The contribution by the mangrove environment for continuing a carbon-less healthy climate, is very important.

The spherical warmth has increased due to the combustion of fossil fuels and clearing of forests by human beings for a number of centuries. We are already facing the unfortunate consequences of spherical warmth. Excessive drought, excessive rainfalls, cultivations becoming unfruitful, lack of drinking water, rising of the sea level, cyclones and change of saline level in water, are some of the unfavourable situations.

Environmental conservation

The reason for all these weather changes and spherical warmth is the heavy quantity of Carbon Dioxide issued to the atmosphere as a result of combustion of fossil fuels. The best and efficient method of reversing this is by re-absorbing unfavourable Carbon Dioxide issued to the atmosphere by increasing the number of plants in the world. However, the ability to absorb Carbon Dioxide is varied according to each forest. The muddy forest of which the soil is covered by has the capability to absorb Carbon Dioxide in huge quantities. The one and only permanent muddy forests in the world of this nature is the mangrove forest. Anaerobic bacteria which are dominant in the muddy soil in these forests digest 50 percent of the leaves, flowers, seeds and parts of stems falling to the ground. Organic items half digested produced thus are deposited in the soil as deep strata. Therefore, the best natural instrument to be used against the spherical warmth is the mangrove forests. Scientists and conservators fight against the spherical warmth by preserving the existing mangrove forests and starting new mangrove forests.

It is confirmed by experiments that a mangrove forest of one hectare, planted in a distance of 2 x 2 feet is capable of absorbing Carbon Dioxide issued from the combustion of 2 million of diesel approximately after 13 years of plantation. Thus, the mangrove environment systems have the competence of accumulating carbon than all other environment systems. This is very important as far as the endurance against the weather changes is concerned. Mangrove forests conserve water. The plants help to keep the water clean by remitting matter dissolved in the water and absorbing the nourishing and poisonous matter. This minimizes the unfavourable influence caused by the development activities and environmental pollution.

The mangrove environment system functions as a protective cover for the reproduction and the growth of 400 various fish species such as fish, prawns and crabs. The large number of roots in the mangrove is an oasis for small fish, as a place to hide for protection from predator fish and to procure food.

Small organic particles by the digesting of leaves and roots by the mangrove plant, deposited in the water of estuaries and lagoons, provide the nutriments for fish. The shrimps and crabs exist with the same nutriments and large fish are attracted to eat shrimps etc. Thus, the mangrove system provides a unique contribution to the continuation of fishery. Dimitta is a fish that lives in the water related to the mangrove environment. It attacks small ants such as red ants, by spraying water to the land. A lot of fish species are fed in this water.

The mangrove plant range carries out a valuable service for strengthening the economy of the country. As plenty of fish frequent the mangroves, the fishing community gets the opportunity to earn their living easily. People also earn an income by weaving mats, bags and hats from the dry leaves of Gin pol plant. Keram Koku are also obtained from the mangrove environment to be consumed. People living in the lagoon border prepare a delicious drink out of the nut of the Cork tree which is a mangrove plant species and earn an income by selling it. Some mangrove plants including Katu Ikiliya are used to make indigenous medicine. The mangrove environment system provides an immense contribution towards the promotion of tourism. Tourists are fond of visiting the mangrove environment to enjoy the environmental splendour and to see the golden rays of the sun at dusk. Migrating birds coming to Sri Lanka are found in the mangrove environment. Various creatures such as reptiles, wild cat, otter and sea hog living in the mangrove areas give an great pulchritude to its environment. Consolation and refreshment provided to the people by the mangrove is important. It is important to obtain the contribution of tourist agents of the coastal area, for the conservation and re-planting of mangroves.

Mangrove plant ancestry

Ecologist Tom Linson said the mangrove plants ancestry has 16 to 24 families and their species from 54 to 75, according to his study in 1986.

It is recorded that 47 species of mangroves are in Australia, 51 species in Malaysia, 19 species in Africa and 23 mangrove species in America.

Species such as Mal Kadol, Katu Ikiriya, Mutti Kadol and Mandakadolana are plentiful among the mangrove species.

Over 50 mangrove species related to mangrove plant species are seen in various climate areas in Sri Lanka. The procedures adopted for their preservation, by the community and various organizations are commendable. Cutting of Jak and Margosa trees is prohibited by the government and permission needs to be obtained from the government. It is now time for authorities to draw up legislation and declare that legal permission must be obtained for cutting a mangrove plant similar to obtaining permission for cutting jak trees. There are over 44 lagoons and estuaries and each lagoon and estuary is a mangrove environment system. The mangrove environment system which is approximately 12,700 hectares (an increase in this amount is expected after surveying), is becoming diminished gradually due to ignorance. At the budget debate in 2014, it was informed to Parliament that a national procedure will be arranged by the Environment and Renewable Energy Ministry for the conservation of mangroves.

In this task, the Sudeesa institution and International Seachology Institution with the participation of the Environment Ministry, will launch the project to preserve the mangrove environment system within the next five years. Seacology Executive Director Duane Silverstain and Seacology board members arrived Sri Lanka to overview the mangrove preserving project, recently. Seacology is a non-profit environmental organisation with its headquarters in Berkeley, California, USA. It was founded in 1991 at Samoans islands and began with the work of ethno-botanist Paul Allan Cox. Seacology works to preserve island habitats and culture by exchanging service for local assistance and cooperation with conservation efforts. Seacology has funded over 200 projects globally. The Seacology prize is an international award given each year to an indigenous islander for exceptional achievement in preserving the environment and cultures of the world’s islands. In 2001, it was awarded to Anurada Wickramasinghe for his mangroves conservation efforts in Sri Lanka. The proposed mangroves preservation project has drawn up a lot of strategies to preserve the mangroves being destroyed due to various activities of humans.

After gazetting that the mangrove zones are protected areas and drawing attention of authorities to strictly implement laws for the safety of the mangrove environment, planting of mangroves in the primary lands where mangroves have been destructed will take place.

Resumption of nurseries, creating awareness and providing concessions for the people in villages near mangroves and making arrangements to obtain alternative sources of income, are also expected to be implemented.

A large number of mangrove species hereditary to Sri Lanka are planted by the Sudeesa.

They will also create awareness among the school community and adults about the mangrove environment. Schoolchildren can obtain knowledge from the research laboratory where inspections are carried out on the mangroves. 

Article source: http://www.dailynews.lk/?q=features/mangroves-environment-system-national-value

New dinosaur found with both feathers and scales

Feathers may have evolved in the earliest of dinosaurs, not only among the theropods that evolved into birds, surmise surprised paleontologists eyeing a new-found fossil herbivore with the tell-tale plumes – as well as scales, found in Siberia.

This is the first dinosaur found with feathers that isn’t a theropod, which is the family including the likes of T-rex and velociraptors, says the team of paleontologists, led by Pascal Godefroit of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.

Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus was a meter-long plant-eater dating from the middle Jurassic (the era after the Triassic). It seems to have looked rather like a giant chicken, with tiny little arms like a miniature T-rex, a short snout, and a lizard-like long tail.

Not only did this peaceful plant-eater have feathers – it also had scales, leading the paleo team leading the study to conclude in their paper published in Science that “featherlike structures coexisted with scales and were potentially widespread among the entire dinosaur clade.”

The beast had small scales on its shins and bigger ones on its tail. It seems to have had a downy plume on the head and more featherlike structures on its chest and legs.

Based on fossil finds so far, theropods and the dinosaurian ancestors of the birds split 220 million years ago, indicating that they shared a feathered ancestor. With this discovery, paleontologists are wondering whether all early dinosaurs had proto-feathers.

The first feathered dinosaur was found in 1996 in China. Many have since come to light. One reason feathered fossils are hard to find is that the filaments are finer than bones and don’t last well. n

Scientists believe that feathers originally evolved as insulation, like fur – a body covering for warmth that had nothing to do with flight. The adaptation of the feather to flight was a later development, they think.

Some also postulate that exotic coloring in the feathers served in communications, based on the fact that birds and animals use body colors to signal. (Think peacock fanning its tail, or baboon presenting its bright-red rear as sexual signals; or us wearing bright clothing, jewelry, and so on.)

If we assume that all Triassic dinosaurs had feathers, then we must conclude the feathery coat disappeared in some animals, for instance the ones like ankylosaurs which developed armor.

Four wings but couldn’t fly

Earlier this month China’s fertile fossil fields produced yet another feathered weirdo – an animal with four wings that, nonetheless, the paleo set thinks couldn’t fly, certainly not well. At most it may have glided from treetops, they speculate.

This one was a meat-eater named Changyuraptor yangi, and had extraordinarily long tail feathers – the longest found in any dinosaur so far – a good 30 centimeters in length.

Like our giant beakless chicken, the yangi had feather-covered forelimbs akin to wings as well as legs covered in feathers, leading paleontologists to speculate that it sort of glided like a “flying squirrel” with four wings. This was no midget either, at about 1.3 meters long, and though it looked rather like a bird – it was not, say the paleos. The earliest-known real bird is the famous Archaeopteryx, which lived about 150 million years ago.

Article source: http://www.haaretz.com/life/nature-environment/1.607358

A character for nature: Dolphin continues passion for teaching about the outdoors

A character for nature: Dolphin continues passion for teaching about the outdoors

Published 10:21am Monday, July 21, 2014

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Larry Dolphin has always had a passion for environmental conservation, and that’s just what he talked to people about over the weekend during the first Water Festival at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.

Nature Center Executive Director Larry Dolphin started at the center in Austin in 1988. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin—Steven’s Point with a degree in natural resources, and minors in environmental education, nature interpretation and biology.

“I knew very early on as a freshman I had to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, and I knew right away,” Dolphin said.

Throughout school, Dolphin focused on fields involving nature and the environment. His passion for nature stemmed from his early days as a youth.

Larry Dolphin talks to a group at the nature center during the Water Festival last week. Jenae Peterson/jenae.peterson@austindailyherald.com

“I think the biggest thing is just in my youth having the opportunity to be outdoors, enjoying the experiences that happened to me outdoors,” Dolphin said.

He recalled many moments where he was amazed at what was happening in the world around him, such as seeing 50 to 60 dragonflies shedding their old skin during metamorphosis, or watching a fox follow a butterfly on its hind legs.

“[It was] experiencing what was out there and the memories that brings,” Dolphin said. “I realized, ‘Boy, I don’t wanna miss this. I wanna see this on a regular basis.’”

Dolphin’s co-worker, nature center assistant Julie Champlin, said he has an amazing personality for the job.

“His teaching style is animated, charismatic, and I think that’s why the kids are so drawn to him, because he is charismatic,” Champlin said. “His personality is amazing, really.”

Dolphin runs around the Ruby Rupner Auditorium during a presentation.

Champlin has worked with Dolphin for all of his 26 years. Their families were close throughout the years as Champlin’s and Dolphin’s children are roughly the same age.

Originally from Livingston, Wis., Dolphin said his parents were always good stewards for the environment. His father was one of the first farmers back in the 1930s to put soil conservation practices on the farm that he grew up on. Dolphin said this is one of the things he took after his father in; a strong passion in looking out for the environment.

“[It’s] learning how things are connected, and using the knowledge you have so people can become environmentally literate citizens,” Dolphin said.

What really got Dolphin excited about nature was being able to discover things about nature for himself. But learning wasn’t enough. He wanted to share his experiences with others.

“I also feel determined to share that with other people,” Dolphin said. “Understanding that everything on this planet, we are connected to it, we are a part of it somehow, we need to understand how to take care of it.”

Champlin said one of Dolphin’s favorite things to do is talk with people about nature.

“He has really done an excellent job getting the community involved, whether it’s a child taking classes or adults enjoying programs,” Champlin said.

Dolphin moved to Austin mainly because of the opportunity to teach at the nature center. According to Champlin, he has worked closely with the school system to ensure what the nature center teaches children follows what they learn in school as well as science standards.

“Our mission is to teach environmental education, and that was the primary goal,” Champlain said. “And it has been done extremely well under Larry’s direction.”

Champlin noted Dolphin often uses different characters when he teaches the children, from a prairie chicken — a common appearance at the annual Thanksgiving feast — to a flower hat with a burlap outfit showing how soil works.

“Oh, his characters,” Champlin said with a laugh. “I think what draws people is the prairie chicken mating dance.”

She said children love his different characters, and he always gets the audience engaged in what he is teaching, whether it’s through rain dances, beaver adaptations or dressing up like a loon.

“He really knows how to engage his students as well as his audience,” Champlin said.

Larry Dolphin talks to a group at the nature center during the Water Festival last week. Jenae Peterson/jena.peterson@austindailyherald.com

Dolphin was excited to see the community support the nature center received when he first came to Austin, with funding from various companies, and he said the support has only grown.

“It’s been really good support by the community [for] the nature center, and I saw that early on when I started to work here,” Dolphin said. “Within a few weeks of being here, I said, I think I’m gonna be here a long time.”

And 26 years later, he has no regrets.

“I wouldn’t change what I’ve done and coming here just reinforced that,” Dolphin said. “I’ve had the opportunity to teach a lot of young folks and families over the years.”

More than half of Dolphin’s job is teaching others about the environment, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’m very fortunate to be able to do what I do, and it’s been enjoyable to share some of the natural, some of the mystery that’s occurring out there,” Dolphin said. “That’s been a great part of my job.”

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Article source: http://www.austindailyherald.com/2014/07/a-character-for-nature-dolphin-continues-passion-for-teaching-about-the-outdoors/

Put a price on nature? We must stop this neoliberal road to ruin

This is the transcript of George Monbiot’s SPERI Annual Lecture, hosted by the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Sheffield.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are witnessing the death of both the theory and the practice of neoliberal capitalism. This is the doctrine which holds that the market can resolve almost all social, economic and political problems. It holds that people are best served, and their prosperity is best advanced, by the minimum of intervention and spending by the state. It contends that we can maximise the general social interest through the pursuit of self-interest.

To illustrate the spectacular crashing and burning of that doctrine, let me tell you the sad tale of a man called Matt Ridley. He was a columnist on the Daily Telegraph until he became – and I think this tells us something about the meritocratic pretensions of neoliberalism – the hereditary chair of Northern Rock: a building society that became a bank. His father had been chair of Northern Rock before him, which appears to have been his sole qualification.

While he was a columnist on the Telegraph he wrote the following, in 1996:

“[the government] is a self-seeking flea on the backs of the more productive people of this world. … governments do not run countries, they parasitize them.”

He argued that taxes, bail-outs, regulations, subsidies, interventions of any kind are an unwarranted restraint on market freedom. When he became chairman of Northern Rock, Ridley was able to put some of these ideas into practice. You can see the results today on your bank statements.

In 2007 Ridley had to go cap in hand to the self-seeking flea and beg it for what became £27 billion. This was rapidly followed by the first run on a British bank since 1878. The government had to guarantee all the deposits of the investors in the bank. Eventually it had to nationalise the bank, being the kind of parasitic self-seeking flea that it is, in order to prevent more or less the complete collapse of the banking system.

By comparison to Ridley, the likes of Paul Flowers, our poor old crystal Methodist, were pretty half-hearted. In fact about the only things which distinguish Flowers from the rest of the banking fraternity were that a) he allegedly bought his own cocaine and b) he singularly failed to bring the entire banking system to its knees.

Where’s Ridley now? Oh, we don’t call him Mr Ridley any more. He sits in the House of Lords as a Conservative peer. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how our system works.

It is not just that neoliberalism has failed spectacularly in that this creed – which was supposed to prevent state spending and persuade us that we didn’t need state spending – has required the greatest and most wasteful state spending in history to bail out the deregulated banks. But also that it has singularly failed to create the great society of innovators and entrepreneurs that we were promised by the originators of this doctrine, by people like Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, who insisted that it would create a society of entrepreneurs.

As Thomas Piketty, a name which is on everybody’s lips at the moment, so adeptly demonstrates in his new book, Capital in the Twenty-first Century, what has happened over the past thirty years or so has been a great resurgence of patrimonial capitalism, of a rentier economy, in which you make far more money either by owning capital or by positioning yourself as a true self-serving flea upon the backs of productive people, a member of an executive class whose rewards are out of all kilter with its performance or the value it delivers. You make far more money in either of those positions than you possibly can through entrepreneurial activity. If wealth under this system were the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.

So just at this moment, this perfect moment of the total moral and ideological collapse of the neoliberal capitalist system, some environmentalists stumble across it and say, “This is the answer to saving the natural world.” And they devise a series of ideas and theories and mechanisms which are supposed to do what we’ve been unable to do by other means: to protect the world from the despoilation and degradation which have done it so much harm.

I’m talking about the development of what could be called the Natural Capital Agenda: the pricing, valuation, monetisation, financialisation of nature in the name of saving it.

Sorry, did I say nature? We don’t call it that any more. It is now called natural capital. Ecological processes are called ecosystem services because, of course, they exist only to serve us. Hills, forests, rivers: these are terribly out-dated terms. They are now called green infrastructure. Biodiversity and habitats? Not at all à la mode my dear. We now call them asset classes in an ecosystems market. I am not making any of this up. These are the names we now give to the natural world.

Those who support this agenda say:

Look, we are failing spectacularly to protect the natural world – and we are failing because people aren’t valuing it enough. Companies will create a road scheme or a supermarket – or a motorway service station in an ancient woodland on the edge of Sheffield – and they see the value of what is going to be destroyed as effectively zero. They weigh that against the money to be made from the development with which they want to replace it. So if we were to price the natural world, and to point out that it is really worth something because it delivers ecosystems services to us in the form of green infrastructure and asset classes within an ecosystems market (i.e. water, air, soil, pollination and the rest of it), then perhaps we will be able to persuade people who are otherwise unpersuadable that this is really worth preserving.

They also point out that through this agenda you can raise a lot of money, which isn’t otherwise available for conservation projects. These are plausible and respectable arguments. But I think they are the road to ruin – to an even greater ruin than we have at the moment.

Let me try to explain why with an escalating series of arguments. I say escalating because they rise in significance, starting with the relatively trivial and becoming more serious as we go.

Perhaps the most trivial argument against the Natural Capital Agenda is that, in the majority of cases, efforts to price the natural world are complete and utter gobbledygook. And the reason why they are complete and utter gobbledygook is that they are dealing with values which are non-commensurable.

They are trying to compare things which cannot be directly compared. The result is the kind of nonsense to be found in the Natural Capital Committee’s latest report, published a couple of weeks ago. The Natural Capital Committee was set up by this government, supposedly in pursuit of better means of protecting the natural world.

It claimed, for example, that if fresh water ecosystems in this country were better protected, the additional aesthetic value arising from that protection would be £700 million. That’s the aesthetic value: in other words, what it looks like. We will value the increment in what it looks like at £700 million. It said that if grassland and sites of special scientific interest were better protected, their wildlife value would increase by £40 million. The value of their wildlife – like the chalk hill blues and the dog violets that live on protected grasslands – would be enhanced by £40 million.

These figures, ladies and gentlemen, are marmalade. They are finely shredded, boiled to a pulp, heavily sweetened … and still indigestible. In other words they are total gibberish.

But they are not the worst I’ve come across. Under the last government, the Department for Transport claimed to have discovered “the real value of time.” Let me read you the surreal sentence in which this bombshell was dropped. “Forecast growth in the real value of time is shown in Table 3.” There it was, the real value of time – rising on a graph.

The department for environment, when it launched the National Ecosystem Assessment in 2011, came out with something equally interesting. It said it had established “the true value of nature for the very first time”. Unfortunately it wasn’t yet able to give us a figure for “the true value of nature”, but it did manage to provide figures for particular components of that value of nature. Let me give you just one of these. It said that if we looked after our parks and greens well they would enhance our well-being to the tune of £290 per household per year in 2060.

What does it mean? It maintained that the increment in well-being is composed of “recreation, health and solace”; natural spaces in which “our culture finds its roots and sense of place”; “shared social value” arising from developing “a sense of purpose” and being “able to achieve important personal goals and participate in society” enhanced by “supportive personal relationships” and “strong and inclusive communities”. So you put solace and sense of place and social value and personal goals and supportive personal relationships and strong and inclusive communities all together into one figure and you come out with £290 per household per year.

All we require now is for the Cabinet Office to give us a price for love and a true value for society and we will have a single figure for the meaning of life.

I know what you’re thinking: it’s 42. But Deep Thought failed to anticipate the advent of Strictly Come Dancing, which has depreciated the will to live to the extent that it’s now been downgraded to 41.

It is complete rubbish, and surely anyone can see it’s complete rubbish. Not only is it complete rubbish, it is unimprovable rubbish. It’s just not possible to have meaningful figures for benefits which cannot in any sensible way be measured in financial terms.

Now there are some things that you can do. They are pretty limited, but there are some genuinely commensurable pay-offs that can be assessed. So, for instance, a friend of mine asked me the other day, “What’s the most lucrative investment a land owner can make?”. I didn’t know. “An osprey! Look at Bassenthwaite in the Lake District where there’s a pair of ospreys breeding and the owners of the land have 300,000 people visiting them every year. They charge them for car parking and they probably make a million pounds a year.”

You can look at that and compare it to what you were doing before, such as rearing sheep, which is only viable because of farm subsidies: you actually lose money by keeping sheep on the land. So you can make a direct comparison because you’ve got two land uses which are both generating revenue (or losing revenue) that is already directly costed in pounds. I’ve got no problem with that. You can come out and say there is a powerful economic argument for having ospreys rather than sheep.

There are a few others I can think of. You can, for instance, look at watersheds. There is an insurance company which costed Pumlumon, the highest mountain in the Cambrian mountains, and worked out that it would be cheaper to buy Pumlumon and reforest it in order to slow down the flow of water into the lowlands than to keep paying out every year for carpets in Gloucester.

Wild flower hay meadows in the Lake District. Photograph: Ashley Cooper/Barcroft Media

There were quite a few assumptions in there, as we don’t yet have all the hydrological data we need, but in principle you can unearth some directly commensurable values – the cost of insurance pay-outs, in pounds, versus the cost of buying the land, in pounds – and produce a rough ballpark comparison. But in the majority of cases you are not looking at anything remotely resembling financial commensurability.

So that is Problem One, and that is the most trivial of the problems.

Problem Two is that you are effectively pushing the natural world even further into the system that is eating it alive. Dieter Helm, the Chairman of the Natural Capital Committee, said the following in the same report I quoted from just a moment ago.

The environment is part of the economy and needs to be properly integrated into it so that growth opportunities will not be missed.

There, ladies and gentlemen, you have what seems to me the government’s real agenda. This is not to protect the natural world from the depredations of the economy. It is to harness the natural world to the economic growth that has been destroying it. All the things which have been so damaging to the living planet are now being sold to us as its salvation; commodification, economic growth, financialisation, abstraction. Now, we are told, these devastating processes will protect it.

(Sorry, did I say the living planet? I keep getting confused about this. I meant asset classes within an ecosystem market.)

It gets worse still when you look at the way in which this is being done. Look at the government’s Ecosystems Markets Task Force, which was another of these exotic vehicles for chopping up nature and turning it into money. From the beginning it was pushing nature towards financialisation. It talked of “harnessing City financial expertise to assess the ways that these blended revenue streams and securitisations enhance the return on investment of an environmental bond.” That gives you an idea of what the agenda is – as well as the amount of gobbledygook it is already generating.

What we are talking about is giving the natural world to the City of London, the financial centre, to look after. What could possibly go wrong? Here we have a sector whose wealth is built on the creation of debt. That’s how it works, on stacking up future liabilities. Shafting the future in order to serve the present: that is the model. And then that debt is sliced up into collateralised debt obligations and all the other marvellous devices that worked so well last time round.

Now nature is to be captured and placed in the care of the financial sector, as that quote suggests. In order for the City to extract any value from it, the same Task Force says we need to “unbundle” ecosystem services so they can be individually traded.

That’s the only way in which it can work – this financialisation and securitisation and bond issuing and everything else they are talking about. Nature has to be unbundled. If there is one thing we know about ecosystems, and we know it more the more we discover about them, it’s that you cannot safely disaggregate their functions without destroying the whole thing. Ecosystems function as coherent holistic systems, in which the different elements depend upon each other. The moment you start to unbundle them and to trade them separately you create a formula for disaster.

Problem Three involves what appears to be a very rude word, because hardly anyone uses it, certainly not in polite society. It begins with a ‘p’ and it’s five letters long and most people seem unable to utter it. It is, of course, power.

Power is the issue which seems to get left out of the Natural Capital Agenda. And because it gets left out, because it it is, I think, deliberately overlooked, what we are effectively seeing is the invocation of money as a kind of fairy dust, that you sprinkle over all the unresolved problems of power in the hope that they will magically resolve themselves. But because they are unresolved, because they are unaddressed, because they aren’t even acknowledged; the natural capital agenda cannot possibly work.

Let me give you an example of a system which doesn’t work because of this problem, despite high commensurability, simple and straightforward outputs and a simple and straightforward monitoring system. That is the European Emissions Trading System, which seeks to reduce carbon emissions by creating a carbon price.

I am not inherently opposed to it. I can see it is potentially as good a mechanism as any other for trying gradually to decarbonise society. But it has failed. An effective price for carbon begins at about £30 a tonne. That is the point at which you begin to see serious industrial change and the disinvestment in fossil fuels we so desperately need to see.

Almost throughout the history of the European Emissions Trading System, the price of carbon has hovered around five Euros. That is where it is today. The reason is an old-fashioned one. The heavily polluting industries, the carbon-intensive industries, which were being asked to change their practices, lobbied the European Union to ensure that they received an over-allocation of carbon permits. Far too many permits were issued. When the European Parliament started talking about withdrawing some of those permits, it too was lobbied and it caved in and failed to withdraw them. So the price has stayed very low.

What we see here is the age-old problem of power. Governments and the Commission are failing to assert political will. They are failing to stand up for themselves and say: “This is how the market is going to function. It is not going to function without a dirigiste and interventionist approach.” Without that dirigiste and interventionist approach we end up with something which is almost entirely useless. In fact worse than useless because I don’t think there has been a single coal-burning power station, motorway or airport in the European Union approved since the ETS came along, which has not been justified with reference to the market created by the trading system.

You haven’t changed anything by sprinkling money over the problem, you have merely called it something new. You have called it a market as opposed to a political system. But you still need the regulatory involvement of the state to make that market work. Because we persuade ourselves that we don’t need it any more because we have a shiny new market mechanism, we end up fudging the issue of power and not addressing those underlying problems.

Let me give you another example: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity project, overseen by Pavan Sukhdev from Deutsche Bank. This huge exercise came up with plenty of figures, most of which I see as nonsense. But one or two appeared to be more more plausible. Among the most famous of these was its valuation of mangrove forests. It maintained that if a businessman or businesswoman cuts down a mangrove forest and replaces it with a shrimp farm, that will be worth around $1,200 per hectare per year to that person. If we leave the mangrove forest standing, because it protects the communities who live on the coastline and because it is a wonderful breeding ground for fish and crustaceans, it will be worth $12,000 per hectare per year. So when people see the figures they will conclude that it makes sense to save the mangrove forests, and hey presto, we have solved the problem. My left foot!

People have known for centuries the tremendous benefits that mangrove forests deliver. But has that protected them from being turned into shrimp farms or beach resorts? No, it hasn’t. And the reason it hasn’t is that it might be worth $12,000 to the local impoverished community of fisher folk, but if it’s worth $1,200 to a powerful local politician who wants to turn it into shrimp farms, that counts for far more. Putting a price on the forest doesn’t in any way change that relationship.

You do not solve the problem this way. You do not solve the problem without confronting power. But what we are doing here is reinforcing power, is strengthening the power of the people with the money, the power of the economic system as a whole against the power of nature.

Let me give you one or two examples of that. Let’s start on the outskirts of Sheffield with Smithy Wood. This is an ancient woodland, which eight hundred years ago was recorded as providing charcoal for the monks who were making iron there. It is an important part of Sheffield’s history and culture. It is full of stories and a sense of place and a sense of being able to lose yourself in something different. Someone wants to turn the centre of Smithy Wood into a motorway service station.

This might have been unthinkable until recently. But it is thinkable now because the government is introducing something called biodiversity offsets. If you trash a piece of land here you can replace its value by creating some habitat elsewhere. This is another outcome of the idea that nature is fungible and tradeable, that it can be turned into something else: swapped either for money or for another place, which is said to have similar value.

What they’ve said is, “We’re going to plant 60,000 saplings, with rabbit guards around them, in some other place, and this will make up for trashing Smithy Wood.” It seems to me unlikely that anyone would have proposed trashing this ancient woodland to build a service station in the middle of it, were it not for the possibility of biodiversity offsets. Something the government has tried to sell to us as protecting nature greatly threatens nature.

Let me give you another example. Say we decide that we’re going to value nature in terms of pounds or dollars or euros and that this is going to be our primary metric for deciding what should be saved and what should not be saved. This, we are told, is an empowering tool to protect the natural world from destruction and degradation. Well you go to the public enquiry and you find that, miraculously, while the wood you are trying to save has been valued at £x, the road, which they want to build through the wood, has been valued at £x+1. And let me tell you, it will always be valued at £x+1 because cost benefit analyses for such issues are always rigged.

The barrister will then be able to say, “Well there you are, it is x+1 for the road and x for the wood. End of argument.” All those knotty issues to do with values and love and desire and wonder and delight and enchantment, all the issues which are actually at the centre of democratic politics, are suddenly ruled out. They are outside the box, they are outside the envelope of discussion, they no longer count. We’ve been totally disempowered by that process.

So that was Problem Three. But the real problem, and this comes to the nub of the argument for me, is over the issues which I will describe as values and framing. Am I allowed to mention Sheffield Hallam? Too late. In response to an article I wrote that was vaguely about this issue last week, Professor Lynn Crowe from Sheffield Hallam University wrote what I thought was a very thoughtful piece. She asked this question: “How else can we address the challenge of convincing those who do not share the same values as ourselves of our case?”.

In other words, we are trying to make a case to people who just don’t care about the natural world. How do we convince them, when they don’t share those values, to change their minds? To me the answer is simple. We don’t.

We never have and we never will. That is not how politics works. Picture a situation where Ed Miliband stands up in the House of Commons and makes such a persuasive speech that David Cameron says, “You know, you’ve completely won me over. I’m crossing the floor and joining the Labour benches.”

That’s not how it works. That is not how politics has ever proceeded, except in one or two extremely rare cases. You do not win your opponents over. What you do to be effective in politics is first, to empower and mobilise people on your own side and secondly, to win over the undecided people in the middle. You are not going to win over the hard core of your opponents who are fiercely opposed to your values.

This is the horrendous mistake that New Labour here and the Democratic Party in the United States have made. “We’ve got to win the next election so we’ve got to appease people who don’t share our values, so we’re going to become like them. Instead of trying to assert our own values, we are going to go over to them and say, “Look, we’re not really red; we’re not scary at all. We are actually conservatives.’” That was Tony Blair’s message. That was Bill Clinton’s message. That, I’m afraid, is Barack Obama’s message.

Triangulation possibly won elections – though in 1997 a bucket on a stick would have won – but it greatly eroded the Labour vote across the intervening years. We’ve ended up with a situation where there are effectively no political alternatives to the neoliberalism being advanced by the coalition government. In which the opposition is, in almost every case, failing to oppose. It is in this position because it has progressively neutralised itself by trying to appease people who do not share its values.

As George Lakoff, the cognitive linguist who has done so much to explain why progressive parties keep losing the elections that they should win and keep losing support even in the midst of a multiple crisis caused by their political opponents, points out, you can never win by adopting the values of your opponents(15).

You have to leave them where they are and project your own values to people who might be persuaded to come over to your side. That is what conservatives have done on both sides of the Atlantic. They have been extremely good at it, especially in the United States, where they have basically crossed their arms and said, “We’re over here and we don’t give a damn about where you are. We don’t care about what you stand for, you hippies on the Left. This is what we stand for and we are going to project it, project it, project it, until the electoral arithmetic our stance creates means that you have to come to us.”

So what we’ve got there is a Democratic Party that is indistinguishable from where the Republicans were ten years ago. It has gone so far to the right that it has lost its core values. I think you could say the same about the Labour Party in this country.

This, in effect, is what we are being asked to do through the natural capital agenda. We are saying “because our opponents don’t share our values and they are the people wrecking the environment, we have to go over to them and insist that we’re really in their camp. All we care about is money. We don’t really care about nature for its own sake. We don’t really believe in any of this intrinsic stuff. We don’t believe in wonder and delight and enchantment. We just want to show that it’s going to make money.”

In doing so, we destroy our own moral authority and legitimacy. In a recent interview George Lakoff singled out what he considered to be the perfect example of the utter incompetence of progressives hoping to defend the issues they care about. What was it? The Natural Capital Agenda.

As Lakoff has pointed out, these people are trying to do the right thing but they are completely failing to apply a frames analysis. A frame is a mental structure through which you understand an issue. Instead of framing the issue with our own values and describing and projecting our values – which is the only thing in the medium- to long-term that ever works – we are abandoning them and adopting instead the values of the people who are wrecking the environment. How could there be any long-term outcome other than more destruction?

There’s another way of looking at this, which says the same thing in a different ways. All of us are somewhere along a spectrum between intrinsic values and extrinsic values. Extrinsic values are about reputation and image and money. They’re about driving down the street in your Ferrari and showing it to everyone. They are about requiring other people’s approbation for your own sense of well-being.

Intrinsic values are about being more comfortable with yourself and who you are. About being embedded in your family, your community, among your friends, and not needing to display to other people in order to demonstrate to yourself that you are worth something.

Research in seventy countries produces remarkably consistent results: these values are highly clustered. So, for instance, people who greatly value financial success tend to have much lower empathy than those with a strong sense of intrinsic values. They have much less concern about the natural world, they have a stronger attraction towards hierarchy and authority. These associations are very strongly clustered.

But we are not born with these values. They are mostly the product of our social and political environment. What the research also shows is that if you change that environment, people’s values shift en masse with that change. For instance, if you have a good, functioning public health system where no one is left untreated, that embeds and imbues among the population a strong set of intrinsic values. The subliminal message is “I live in a society where everyone is looked after. That must be a good thing because that is the society I live in.” You absorb and internalise those values.

If on the other hand you live in a devil-take-the-hindmost society where people, as they do in the United States, die of treatable conditions because they cannot afford medical care, that will reinforce extrinsic values and push you further towards that end of the spectrum. The more that spectrum shifts, the more people’s values shift with it.

People on the right understand this very well. Mrs Thatcher famously said, “Economics are the method; the object is to change the heart and soul.” She understood the political need to change people’s values – something the left has seldom grasped.

If we surrender to the financial agenda and say, “This market-led neoliberalism thing is the way forward,” then we shift social values. Environmentalists are among the last lines of defence against the gradual societal shift towards extrinsic values. If we don’t stand up and say, “We do not share those values, our values are intrinsic values. We care about people. We care about the natural world. We are embedded in our communities and the people around us and we want to protect them, not just ourselves. We are not going to be selfish. This isn’t about money”, who else is going to do it?

So you say to me, “Well what do we do instead? You produce these arguments against trying to save nature by pricing it, by financialisation, by monetisation. What do you do instead?”

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it is no mystery. It is the same answer that it has always been. The same answer that it always will be. The one thing we just cannot be bothered to get off our bottoms to do, which is the only thing that works. Mobilisation.

It is the only thing that has worked, the only thing that can work. Everything else is a fudge and a substitute and an excuse for not doing that thing that works. And that applies to attempts to monetise and financialise nature as much as it does to all the other issues we are failing to tackle. Thank you.

Monbiot.com

Article source: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/georgemonbiot/2014/jul/24/price-nature-neoliberal-capital-road-ruin

Public Outreach Program Coordinator

About Education for Nature – Vietnam

Education for Nature – Vietnam (ENV) was established in 2000 as Vietnam’s first non-governmental organization focused on the conservation of nature and protection of the environment. Our mission is to foster greater understanding amongst the Vietnamese public about the need to protect nature and wildlife. We employ creative and innovative strategies to influence public attitudes and mobilize Vietnamese citizens to live in balance with the natural world. We work closely with government partners to strengthen policy and legislation and directly support enforcement efforts in the protection of endangered species of national, regional and global significance.

For more details about what we do, please visit:

Website:    www.envietnam.org (EN)
                 www.thiennhien.org (VN)

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EducationforNatureVietnam (EN)
https://www.facebook.com/trungtamgiaoducthiennhien (VN) http://www.facebook.com/ENVvolunteers (VN)

Positions available

Education for Nature – Vietnam (ENV) is currently hiring for the position of Public Outreach Program Coordinator.

Public Outreach Program Coordinator

The Public Outreach Program Coordinator will oversee a wide range of public outreach activities conducted nationwide, including working with volunteers, holding awareness-raising events, and coordinating initiatives to combat wildlife crime. The successful candidate will be visibly passionate and motivated to work to save wildlife in Vietnam, and will be able to communicate and pass on this passion to the public, whilst also being highly professional and organized, as befits this position.

Main duties:

  • Manage and coordinate all activities under ENV’s public outreach program, such as public exhibits, presentations and training sessions, including regular and extensive travel to the field.
  • Oversee the successful engagement and expansion of ENV’s volunteer network.
  • Work with a wide variety of professional bodies to ensure successful partnerships.
  • Produce management and donor reports in English.
  • Work closely with all departments at ENV to ensure ENV meets its goals and objectives.

Skills and Requirements:

  • Vietnamese citizen with University degree
  • Language skills: excellent verbal written English, and strong written Vietnamese.
  • Outstanding communication and presentation skills
  • Excellent management and teamwork skills, including time management and planning
  • Ability to work independently, take initiative and pay attention to details.
  • Personable and friendly but also highly professional and confident.
  • Results-oriented with a strong ability to “think outside of the box”.
  • Ability to think critically and develop new ideas.
  • Confident with IT skills: PowerPoint, Word, Excel, Access, internet, etc.
  • Willing to travel regularly within Vietnam
  • A passion for wildlife protection and conservation.

Benefits and Terms

• Mixed English-speaking work environment
• Challenging job in a dynamic and supportive team
• Full benefits and long term contract provided
• Hanoi-based position but involving often monthly travel to other provinces
• Salary based on performance and experience

HOW TO APPLY?

Interested candidates must complete ENV’s standard application form, which can be found here: http://envietnam.org/library/Others/ENV_application_form_Feb_22_2012.doc

An up-to-date CV and cover letter may also be included in the application, but are not compulsory.

Interested candidates are invited to apply for the vacancy not later than Jul 31,  2014 by email or correspondence.

Please send your applications to: Minhtran.env@gmail.com

Further information, please contact:

Education for Nature – Vietnam (ENV)
Room 1701, Building 17T5, Hoang Dao Thuy street, Cau Giay district, Hanoi
Tel: 04 6281 5424
Email: Minhtran.env@gmail.com

Note:

* Applications will be treated on “First come, first serve” basis.
* Only short-listed candidates will be notified for written test interview

Job Details

Article source: http://www.ngocentre.org.vn/jobs/public-outreach-program-coordinator-0