Archive for January, 2012

Communication and Public Awareness Officer

About ENV
Education for Nature-Vietnam (ENV) was established in 2000 as Vietnam’s first non-governmental organization focused on conservation of nature and the environment. Their mission is to foster greater
understanding amongst the Vietnamese public about environmental issues of local, national and global significance, ranging from protection of wildlife and natural ecosystems to climate change. They employ creative and innovative strategies to influence attitudes and behavior, not only highlighting the need to protect Vietnam’s rich natural heritage and the living world around us, but also encouraging greater public participation in achieving this important and challenging task.
For more details about what they do, visit their website:
English language:
Vietnamese language:

Positions available
ENV is looking for a Communications Officer who is a charismatic professional to work closely with their national and international senior officers to strengthen our program. An ability to think creatively and develop new ideas and initiatives, and excellent communication and presentation skills are a must. She/he promotes the strengthening and growth of ENV through enhancing the organization’s public image and profile and coordinating public awareness activities. The Communications Officer is also involved in helping to grow ENV’s corporate partnerships and memberships program and nurturing existing corporate relationships.
Main duty station: Hanoi

Main responsibilities
- Produce and distribute the weekly bulletin
- Manage conservation and environment in the news
- Generate press releases on major events and outputs
- Develop and maintain ENV websites
- Manage translation system for news articles
- Coordination of membership events or promotions.
- Media Liaison
- Attend meetings with and liaise with potential and current corporate partners as required.
- Supervision of the duties of the membership assistant and communications assistant
- Assist with other major ENV activities as required

- College degree; Prefer environment, journalism and communication-related degree
- English language: Strong verbal and written English language skills required
- Excellent communication and presentation skills, confident and outgoing, ability to work closely with others.
- Experience working in media or as a communications professional
- Some knowledge of environment and conservation issues or an interest in learning about.
- Computer literate (Excel, Word, PowerPoint);
- Familiarity with website management (Dreamweaver) and some website programs like Facebook, graphic software or a capacity to quickly learn.
- Experience in staff management or ability to lead and show initiative.

Interested candidates are invited to send their application and cover letter to the following address before February 17, 2012 by email or by correspondence:
Nhan Thi Hien
Office Manager
Education for Nature – Vietnam (ENV)
No 5, Lane 192, Thai Thinh street, Dong Da district, Hanoi, Vietnam.
Phone: 04 35148850
* Your applications will be treated on “First come, first serve” basic.
* Only short-listed candidates will be notified

Job Details

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Paying for Nature: Dow’s Environmental Bottom Line

A year ago I traveled to Detroit to moderate a discussion between Mark Tercek, the head of the Nature Conservancy (TNC)—one of the biggest green groups in the U.S.—and Andrew Liveris, the CEO of Dow Chemical. They were in town to talk about an innovative collaboration that would help TNC develop strategies that would help Dow Chemical maximize the environmental value of its operations, to figure out how the company could both go green and cut waste from the bottom line. But it wasn’t just about Dow—the ultimate aim of the collaboration was to figure out the value of nature, to put a dollar figure on clean water, intact forests and vibrant wetlands.

And now, a year later, some of the first results are coming in.

MORE: Paying for Nature

I wrote about the partnership for TIME:

Many greens — and a growing chorus of corporate suits — are arguing that nature in its own right provides economically valuable services that underpin business. A virgin forest is pleasant to look at, of course, but it also prevents soil erosion and improves water quality at no cost — valuable if you happen to own a beverage plant downstream that depends on clean water. That same forest might provide a habitat for bees, which can pollinate plants in surrounding cropland — a vital function if you run a coffee plantation nearby. By this reckoning, nature provides “ecosystem services” — from clean water to carbon sequestration — whose benefits for business are increasingly measurable in hard, cold dollar figures. “All the things that nature does for us fuel our prosperity,” says Peter Kareiva, chief scientist for the Nature Conservancy (TNC), a Washington-based environmental group.

Until recently, the concept of ecosystem services was mentioned only in obscure scientific journals, the province of a few ecologists trying to figure out the dollar value of the atmosphere. But the threat of government action on carbon emissions (which now have a price of about $20 a ton on the European market), insistent shareholder pressure on green issues and growing concern over limited natural resources have prompted an increasing number of companies, including giants like Coca-Cola, to examine their ecological numbers just as closely as they would any other part of their balance sheets. Last month, Dow Chemical took the trend to a new level, announcing a five-year, $10 million collaboration with TNC to eventually tally up the ecosystem costs and benefits of every business decision. The Michigan-headquartered company will look to make environmental factors part of its profit-and-loss statements — a move that could signal to other companies that nature can no longer be ignored. “Our planet’s natural resources are more and more under threat,” says Dow CEO Andrew Liveris. “But protecting nature can be a profitable corporate priority and a smart global business strategy.”

That’s a great sentiment. But if ecosystems service is going to become more than just a nice concept, it needs hard numbers. And that’s where the Dow-TNC collaboration may be able to bear fruit. The two groups just released the first progress report on the partnership. You can read it here (PDF)—the important news is the identification of the first pilot site for the study at Dow’s massive operations in Freeport, Texas, which produces more than a fifth of the company’s global products. Among the ecosystem services that will be studied include:

MORE: A Major Company Puts a Value on the Environment

  • The fresh water supply from the nearby Brazos River, which feeds the manufacturing facility. The study will look at how drought can impact the river—and where it might be possible to increase the water supply in the river basin.
  • The potential for tree replanting as a way to mitigate air pollution. Planting trees can help cut nitrogen oxides and other ozone precursors, which can help reduce the amount Dow needs to pay to meet environmental obligations. Planting trees can have additional ecosystem values by preserving and extending natural habitat, and improving carbon sequestration.
  • The value of coastal marshes and wetlands—Freeport is on the Gulf of Mexico—as a way to protect the facility from storms. Intact wetlands provide natural protection for storm surges, and they also provide a place for fish to spawn. It could be worth Dow’s while to invest in wetlands as a form of natural infrastructure to protect the facility from storm surges, instead of spending that money on sea walls and other artificial barriers.

The Dow-TNC partnership has another four years to run, so it will be awhile before we know just how meaningful ecosystem services can be for both business and the environment. But a year in, the project looks like a good start.

MORE: Putting a High Price on Nature

Bryan Walsh is a senior writer at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bryanrwalsh. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME

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Mother Nature Gets Her Day in Court

Ecuador and Bolivia granted legal rights to the environment within the past few years. But what are those rights and can they really be enforced?

“The rights of nature laws recognize the rights of ecosystems and natural communities to exist, to flourish, to regenerate, and to evolve,” Mari Margill, associate director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), told Discovery News. CELDF helped Ecuador write the rights of nature into legal reality.

“The rights of nature laws move nature from being considered ‘property’ under the law to being recognized as ‘rights bearing’ under the law,” said Margill.

But laws are nothing but ink on paper if not enforced. A court case in Ecuador showed that these Earth friendly laws have claws and aren’t just idealistic public relations legislation.

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Article 71 of Ecuador’s constitution acknowledged the rights of the environment in 2008. The first court case to test the strength of these rights was held March 30, 2011. Two plaintiffs presented a constitutional injunction to halt a road project which deposited rock, tree trunks and other debris in the Vilcabamba River. The plaintiffs stood in for the damaged ecosystem in court, much like a legal guardian stands in for a child. The local provincial court found in favor of the environment and upheld the injunction.

“Even as these laws are just beginning to be enforced… they are still important because they play a significant educational role in raising awareness about the rights and needs of nature,” Linda Sheehan, executive director of the Earth Law Center, told Discovery News.

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VIDEO: All About Climate Change: From Glacial Melt to Endangered Tigers

Giving Mother Nature her day in court isn’t limited to the Southern Hemisphere.

“Several dozen municipalities in the US have adopted rights of nature laws. This includes the City of Pittsburgh, in November 2010. CELDF assisted the city to draft the ordinance which also is the first in the nation to ban corporations from natural gas drilling within a municipality,” Margill said.

Sheehan recently worked with Santa Monica, California to develop a “Sustainability Bill of Rights,” which acknowledged the rights of nature.

BLOG: Legal Deal to Kill Golden Eagle

The American legal system has been considering the environment’s legal standing for at least 40 years. Justice William Douglas’ dissenting opinion in the 1972 Supreme court case, Sierra Club v. Morton, paved the way for considering legal rights for the Earth, although the Sierra Club lost the case.

If granting legal rights to something as vague as nature seems strange, consider the legal rights granted to another intangible entity, the corporation, as exemplified by the United States Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case.

University of Southern California law professor Christopher Stone drew an analogy between corporate rights and environmental rights in the 2011 re-issue of his book “Should Trees Have Standing.” Justice Douglas based his 1972 dissent on the first edition of Stone’s book.

“The rights of nature are more like human rights than ‘rights’ of corporations, which are artificial legal entities holding rights created by courts,” Sheehan said.

“Rights of humans and nature arise from the same place- our joint heritage shared through our co-evolution on, and citizenship of, the Earth,” continued Sheehan. “But corporate ‘rights’ unfortunately have trampled on both human and environmental rights, particularly in the wake of Citizens United, which is increasingly co-opting our right to self-governance.”

In the face of corporate power, environmental rights advocates push for fundamental changes in legal structures in order to put the long term health of the planet and its human inhabitants ahead of profits.

“Existing environmental laws (Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, etc.) treat nature as property, such that the owner of that property effectively has the right to destroy the nature that exists on his property,” said Margil. “Similarly, slaves were treated as property under the law and a slave ‘owner’ had the right to destroy his ‘property.’”

“Our existing structures of environmental law will not allow us to achieve anything close to true sustainability… in its place, we need to drive a fundamentally new legal structure forward,” concluded Margil.

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Westmont environmentalist leads rally behind passenger pigeon

At the peak, well over a century ago, the comings and goings of passenger pigeons were a true force of nature — their vast numbers when in flight stretching for miles and literally obscuring the sun.

Experts estimate that in the early history of the country, there were 3 billion to 5 billion of the native birds — accounting for up to 40 percent of all bird life in North America — filling the skies from the Great Plains east to the Atlantic Ocean and from southern Canada to northern Mississippi.

“There was nothing else like it,” says Joel Greenberg, a Westmont author and consultant on environmental issues. “The bird was unique in the sheer numbers of the population and the aggregations they formed. It just hit you.”

A nature lover, history buff and avid birder who co-authored “A Birder’s Guide to the Chicago Region,” Greenberg said his passion led him to the passenger pigeon for what will be the first book on the subject in more than 50 years.

Along the way, he has become an organizer and point man in the Chicago area for a growing array of educators, curators and others pursuing Project Passenger Pigeon, a national effort geared to the 100-year anniversary in 2014 of the demise of the once seemingly inexhaustible natural resource.

Through a website, downloadable displays, educational materials, exhibitions, public events and other means — a documentary film and even a symphony are considerations — the evolving idea is to use the story of the passenger pigeon to promote habitat preservation and species conservation and to get individuals to consider their roles in the process.

“I’m hoping this is a portal, an entry for people who otherwise wouldn’t get involved,” Greenberg said.

Though the demise of the passenger pigeon spurred many laws and initiatives, human-caused extinctions continue, organizers say.

“It’s not so much we want to bemoan the loss of the passenger pigeon; it’s the issues the passenger pigeon brings up,” explained Steve Sullivan, senior curator of urban ecology at the Chicago Academy of Sciences and its Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, who is working closely with Greenberg.

“It was here. It was in our backyards. It was American,” he said. “We demolished this renewable resource strictly by our own actions.”

During his research, Greenberg said, he began considering a broader educational effort tied to the extinction in 1914. About two years ago, he learned that David Blockstein, senior scientist with the National Council for Science and the Environment, had the same thought and the two connected.

“In this day of where we are so connected through the Internet, there really is an opportunity for people, whoever they are and wherever they are, to become engaged with this conservation effort,” said Blockstein, who worked on the Birds of North America Project and did his Ph.D. research on mourning doves, the closest relative to the passenger pigeon.

He said the passenger pigeon was one of the signature animals of pre-colonial America and a “lost part of our North American heritage.”

“Anybody who lived east of the Mississippi (River) must have been aware of them because of the prodigious flocks,” he said.

“I expect that over time we’ll have hundreds if not thousands of organizations involved in the effort. Because they are such an iconic species, it has that potential to bring people together.”

Relentlessly hunted for food and sport, the number of passenger pigeons diminished noticeably during the 1870s. According to “Extinct Birds” by Errol Fuller, one organized hunting competition required more than 30,000 dead birds to claim a prize. In 1878 in Petoskey, Mich., 50,000 birds per day were killed for nearly five months running, according to the National Museum of Natural History.

The birds were mostly netted and shot, and being the “cheapest protein available,” hundreds of millions were sent to markets in the Midwest and East, according to Greenberg. He said some hunters would asphyxiate the birds by burning sulfur under their nests and roosts, or burning the trees where they gathered.

Destruction of its forest habitat for farming and development also contributed to the demise, experts say.

“Humans drove this species to extinction over a period of decades,” Greenberg said.

By 1900, the passenger pigeon was all but gone from the wild. A few remained in captivity, with the last, a female named Martha, dying at the Cincinnati Zoological Garden on Sept. 1, 1914. The body was encased in ice and donated to the Smithsonian Institution where it was on display for a time. It remains in the collections of National Museum of Natural History but is not on view.

“The passenger pigeon is the best cautionary tale to the proposition that no matter how common something is, we can lose it,” Greenberg said.

Specifics are to come, but organizational meetings have been held in several Midwest states. Greenberg recently returned from Chatham University in Pittsburgh, alma mater of Rachel Carson, the famous scientist and author credited with helping start the modern environmental movement. Representatives from 10 institutions, including the Carnegie Natural History Museum, discussed the passenger pigeon project.

“It was very heartening,” Greenberg said. “We’re now over 100 different organizations that are participating.”

Local communities, libraries, museums, nature centers, and others also are expected to get involved.

“We’re looking at this as an educational opportunity,” said Megan Dunning, manager of community education and outreach for the Morton Arboretum. “We really want to incorporate some arts elements into this.”

The Lake County Forest Preserve District recently agreed to participate, though the extent is to be determined.

“It could grow,” said Lynn Hepler, environmental education services manager. “It’s a good way to draw attention to sustainable living so we in Lake County can live in better harmony with our surroundings.”

Dunning said having a specific symbol should help educational efforts.

“Sometimes, these environmental concerns and problems like extinction that are big and global, you feel yourself removed from the question because it’s such a big question,” she said. “Sometimes it helps to put a face on the problem.”

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Nature Center announces partnership with New Canaan farmer

The New Canaan Nature Center has announced a new partnership with veteran New Canaan farmer “Uncle Buck,” Randy Brown.

Starting in February, Brown will teach a new horticulture education program that will take place in the Nature Center greenhouse. The hands-on “Backyard Gardening Series” is designed to provide guidance, support and knowledge to those wishing to grow healthy plants, vegetables and flowers from seed. The class will meet Saturday mornings in the Greenhouse from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and each week will incorporate a lectures and hands-on work and learning. Weekly participation is encouraged but not mandatory.

The series consists of 10 lessons/workshops over 13 weeks on choosing the right plants for a garden, seed propagation techniques, making and rooting cuttings, soil amendment, preparing the garden bed, transplanting tips, container gardening , insect/disease control and more. Participants will work in the greenhouse to plant and raise seedlings, learn to avoid and remedy common gardening pitfalls and benefit from expert guidance when the time comes to transfer seedlings into your own garden or Nature Center plots. Visit for a complete schedule.

“Since returning to New Canaan after a lifelong farming career, my goal has been to increase awareness of the importance of maintaining a connection to the earth, and to share the skills necessary to grow plants for food and fun,” Brown said. “I’m excited to have this opportunity to partner with the New Canaan Nature Center, share my passion for growing and offer a course which is designed to demystify what is becoming the lost art of vegetable and flower growing at home.”

“Partnering with Randy Brown is a step toward our goal of creating an active learning environment in the Nature Center greenhouse,” Laura Heckman, Nature Center Executive Director, said. “We are excited work with him and share his extensive knowledge of local farming and gardening with the community.”

The class is an opportunity for fledgling gardeners as well as those who want to learn more about greenhouse gardening. The participation fee is $250 including supplies; $225 for NCNC members. Participants will have access to the greenhouse throughout the week and share the responsibility of watering and looking after the seedlings. Call 203-966-9577 ext. 20 to register.

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Santa Monica Votes for Nature Rights

I keep warning that the “nature rights” movement is taking off and nobody takes notice. Santa Monica has now enacted a resolution declaring, in essence, that “nature” has a right to life.  From the Santa Monica Lookout story:

Santa Monica’s City Council voted on Tuesday to recognize the rights of natural communities to exist. The resolution, drafted by the Task Force on the Environment, calls for Santa Monica to “recognize the rights of people, natural communities, and ecosystems to exist, regenerate and flourish,â€� according to City Staff.

Note that the resolution, like similar ones passed elsewhere by USA municipalities, elevates the “rights” of natural communities and ecosystems to co-equal status with those of people.  These resolutions also grants the right to sue to enforce nature rights to everyone and anyone.  The city could promote a restrictive development policy, if that was the goal, without diminishing the rights of man to the level of the local clams and sand crabs.

But it is too late for that anyway. I was raised and lived in LA until I was 42. I know Santa Monica very well.  The city is already developed to the hilt and is decidely high end.  I guess to protect the rights the sand dabs and resident mackerel, they’ll tear up the huge beach parking lot, destroy the pier, and uproot beautiful Palisades Park so the “natural communities” can reestablish the bluff above the Pacific to its pre-development state. Right!  And watch land values and revenues drop like a stone thrown in the ocean.  What hypocrites.

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Fighting the 'Nature Deficit Disorder,' Area Camp Experts Offer Local Angle on International Research

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