Extinctions during human era worse than thought | News from Brown


The gravity of the world’s current extinction rate becomes clearer upon knowing what it was before people came along. A new estimate finds that species die off as much as 1,000 times more frequently nowadays than they used to. That’s 10 times worse than the old estimate of 100 times.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — It’s hard to comprehend how bad the current rate of species extinction around the world has become without knowing what it was before people came along. The newest estimate is that the pre-human rate was 10 times lower than scientists had thought, which means that the current level is 10 times worse.

Extinctions are about 1,000 times more frequent now than in the 60 million years before people came along. The explanation from lead author Jurriaan de Vos, a Brown University postdoctoral researcher, senior author Stuart Pimm, a Duke University professor, and their team appears online in the journal Conservation Biology.

via Extinctions during human era worse than thought | News from Brown

Opinion | One Billion Dollars for the Planet – By Hansjörg Wyss – NYT


By Hansjörg Wyss
Mr. Wyss is a philanthropist and conservationist.

Oct. 31, 2018    152 comments

Tourists watching the Perito Moreno Glacier, at Los Glaciares National Park, near El Calafate in the Argentine province of Santa Cruz, last March.CreditCreditWalter Diaz/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
WILSON, Wyo. — Plant and animal species are estimated to be disappearing at a rate 1,000 times faster than they were before humans arrived on the scene. Climate change is upending natural systems across the planet. Forests, fisheries and drinking water supplies are imperiled as extractive industries chew further into the wild.

But there is another, encouraging side to this depressing story: how a simple idea, born in the United States in the 19th century and now racing around the globe, may yet preserve a substantial portion of our planet in a natural state.

It is the idea that wild lands and waters are best conserved not in private hands, locked behind gates, but as public national parks, wildlife refuges and marine reserves, forever open for everyone to experience and explore. The notion of holding these places in public trust was one I became deeply influenced by as a young man, when I first climbed and hiked on public lands in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.

via Opinion | One Billion Dollars for the Planet – The New York Times

Opinion | We Need to Offer More Than Asylum – by Roberto Suro – NYT


Enforcement alone won’t stop them, certainly not enforcement consistent with our laws. So the root causes must be addressed. In the meantime, the families will keep coming. As we’re seeing yet again, our asylum system is dysfunctional. What we need is a new visa program designed for the number and characteristics of the people arriving at the American border.

Getting to a solution starts with acknowledging that the absolute best outcome for them — and for us — is for them not to be forced out of their homes in the first place.

Mr. Trump’s 2019 budget seeks $26 billion for immigration enforcement and detention, plus $18 billion more for the border wall. That’s almost the combined gross domestic product of El Salvador and Honduras ($48 billion). A fraction of the enforcement budget well spent on economic development would reduce migration pressure. It would be a better use of taxpayer dollars than trying to intercept people in flight at a militarized border and then criminalizing them.

Aside from the utility, it is the right thing to do. American interventions, political, military and economic, helped create the conditions prompting many migrations, including this one.

Solving this problem, so close to home, is in our national interest. But even if we made an all-out effort to address the ills forcing people to emigrate from the Northern Triangle, we would need to manage the flow for years to come. We do not have the means to do that now.

The first problem is that our criteria for humanitarian admissions were conceived more than 60 years ago and no longer match reality. The original 1951 United Nations convention on refugees envisioned people fleeing “a well-founded fear” of persecution. Easily recognized characteristics like religion, race or political beliefs determined eligibility, and governments were the usual culprits. The Cold War drew stark distinctions between the free and the oppressed.

Today, criminal gangs, armed insurgents and other nonstate actors routinely wreak havoc. Whether their victims get protection depends on individual governments and the policies of the moment.

. . . .

Uncontrolled violence combines with environmental degradation and economic collapse to produce what Alexander Betts, a professor at Oxford, has termed “survival migration.” The term, he writes, describes “people who have left their country of origin because of an existential threat for which they have no domestic remedy.”

The 1951 standards can be stretched to cover those who flee under such conditions. However, Mr. Sessions and European restrictionists deploy the letter of the law, no matter how outdated, as grounds for rejection. And at the same time, they abrogate the migrants’ right, enshrined in those same international agreements, to seek protection even if it means violating immigration rules.

via Opinion | We Need to Offer More Than Asylum – The New York Times

Helping the Rohingya – The New York Times

By Tiffany May
Sept. 29, 2017

Here are some of the organizations responding to the Rohingya refugee crisis. Some are trying to gain access to restricted areas of the western state of Rakhine in Myanmar, where many ethnic Rohingya Muslims remain. Most of the aid has been focused on camps in Bangladesh where hundreds of thousands have fled over the past month.

More information can be found through services that track and rate charity groups, including GuideStar and Charity Navigator.

BRAC, a group founded in Bangladesh, was ranked the No. 1 nongovernmental organization in the world by NGO Advisor. Of the 1,300 staff members directly serving the refugee population in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, many are locals who speak a dialect similar to that of the Rohingya in Rakhine State. BRAC has also trained 800 Rohingya refugees as volunteers. The group is now focused on health, education and the protection of women and girls.

IOM, the United Nation’s migration agency, manages camps and shelters in Cox’s Bazar. In addition to providing healthcare and sanitation, the group is scaling up programs to protect girls, women and others vulnerable to trafficking. IOM employs Rohingya refugees on a casual basis, and most of the 500 employees in Cox’s Bazar are Bangladeshi.

via Helping the Rohingya – The New York Times

Opinion | Trump Immigration Policy Veers From Abhorrent to Evil – by Nicholas Kristof – NYT

“We as a nation have crossed so many ugly lines recently, yet one new policy of President Trump’s particularly haunts me. I’m speaking of the administration’s tactic of seizing children from desperate refugees at the border.

“I was given only five minutes to say goodbye,” a Salvadoran woman wrote in a declaration in an A.C.L.U. lawsuit against the government, after her 4- and 10-year-old sons were taken from her. “My babies started crying when they found out we were going to be separated.”

“In tears myself, I asked my boys to be brave, and I promised we would be together soon. I begged the woman who took my children to keep them together so they could at least have each other.”

via Opinion | Trump Immigration Policy Veers From Abhorrent to Evil – The New York Times

Opinion | As Population Growth Slows- Populism Surges – The New York Times

“Nicola Gatta, the mayor of Candela in southeastern Italy (population 2,700), is desperate to reverse two decades of population decline and literally keep his town on the map. If you accept his invitation to move there, he will pay you about $2,300.

It’s probably no coincidence that mayors in small Italian towns are making such offers at about the same time as a populist coalition is on the verge of taking over Italy’s government.

The last time that populism — what we broadly define as political movements that ostensibly set the interests of “ordinary people” against elites as well as an “other” — swept across Europe and the United States was marked by the same combination of slow economic and fertility growth that today prevails in advanced industrialized countries in the West and Asia.

Economies have recently picked up some steam, but not before nearly a decade of sluggish economic growth — and, in most of the world, declining fertility rates. The United States is no exception: The fertility rate among Americans has hit a 30-year low.”

Opinion | These Kids Could Tutor World Leaders – by Nicholas Kristof – NYT


NDONGA, Central African Republic — This remote village doesn’t have an official school, and there’s no functioning government to build one. So the villagers, desperate to improve their children’s lives, used branches and leaves to construct their own dirt-floor schoolhouse.

It has no electricity, windows or desks, and it doesn’t keep out rain or beetles, but it does imbue hope, discipline and dreams. The 90 pupils sitting on bamboo benches could tutor world leaders about the importance of education — even if the kids struggle with the most basic challenges.

“It’s hard to learn without a paper or pen,” Bertrand Golbé, a parent who turned himself into a teacher, acknowledged with a laugh. “But this is the way we have to do it.

“They never have had breakfast when they arrive,” Golbé added. “They’re hungry. It’s difficult.”

via Opinion | These Kids Could Tutor World Leaders – The New York Times

David Lindsay:   Lovely op-ed by Nicholas Kristof, but it was short on numbers refered to by not shared.
Kristof wrote;
“And in South Sudan, a girl is more likely to die in childbirth than to graduate from high school.
Education is also a bargain: By my back-of-envelope calculations, for about one-half of 1 percent of global military spending, the world could vanquish illiteracy forever by ensuring that every child completes primary school.”
I wonder why he excludes the numbers. He was over his word count, or thinks we would be burdened?
The numbers matter. It is too bad they are left out.
That said, his thesis right. We should support and help pay for elementary education in the third world, because it its good for humanity and the evironment, and slowing out of control population growth.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNewsWorldwide.wordpress.com

Bigger Is Not Better for Ocean Conservation – by Luiz A. Rocha – NYT

Those areas — totaling almost 350,000 square miles — will encompass islands some 600 miles offshore and increase Brazil’s protected areas to nearly 25 percent of its waters from about 1.5 percent now. The Ministry of the Environment is creating a circle of protection 400 miles in diameter around those islands without actually protecting much of anything. Fishing, both recreational and commercial, will still be allowed within most of those areas, and only a small portion of the coastal habitats surrounding the islands, the most critical to safeguard, will actually be protected from fishing, mining and oil and gas exploration.

All the while, dozens of other proposals for protected zones in coastal Brazil (including one of my own), some as small as one square mile, have gone nowhere.

The United States has pursued this “just add water” approach, too. In 2006, President George W. Bush created the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, covering 140,000 square miles around the northwestern Hawaiian Islands. By all measures, this was a great move because it fully protected all coral reefs in the monument. Ten years later, President Barack Obama expanded it into the open ocean, more than quadrupling its size. This action was extolled for providing critical protection for coral reefs, but in reality the reefs had been safe since President Bush designated the original area.

Some argue that these open-ocean protected areas harbor hundreds of oceangoing species. While that’s true, even the most effectively enforced of these areas fail to fully protect species like tuna, whose cruising speed of 10 miles an hour means that they can cross a protected area in mere days. The expansion of Papahanaumokuakea, for example, has not affected Hawaii’s annual yield of open-ocean tuna catches.

via Bigger Is Not Better for Ocean Conservation – The New York Times

A Parable of Self-Destruction – by Nicholas Kristof – NYT

Scientists and historians have since solved the mystery. The statues, or moai, were built over hundreds of years by Easter Islanders themselves — a formerly advanced Polynesian society that was prosperous enough to make ever bigger and more ornate statues. One, still being carved in the quarry when it was abandoned in the 1600s, is 70 feet tall and weighs 270 tons.

What destroyed this civilization was apparently deforestation in the 1500s and 1600s. The islanders cut down trees for cremation, for firewood, for canoes, for homes and perhaps for devices to move the statues. Rats and beetles may also have contributed to the deforestation.

Once the trees were gone, there were no more fruit and nuts, and it became impossible to build large canoes to hunt porpoises and to fish for tuna. Hungry villagers also ate up the land birds, such as herons, parrots and owls, until they were gone, too.

Deforestation caused erosion that led crops to fail, and this advanced society disintegrated into civil war. Without oceangoing canoes, it was impossible for inhabitants to flee to other islands, the way their ancestors had arrived centuries before. Groups began attacking one another and destroying one another’s statues, with oral histories even recounting cannibalism.

via A Parable of Self-Destruction – The New York Times

With 10 Million Acres in Patagonia- a National Park System Is Born – The New York Times

Two Americans snapped up large swaths of land in Chile, which they donated to a new conservation area that will be three times the size of Yosemite and Yellowstone…


“COCHRANE, Chile — An eagle soared over the lone house atop an arid hill in the steppes of Patagonia Park.

In the valley below, not far from the town of Cochrane, President Michelle Bachelet announced the creation of a vast national park system in Chile stretching from Hornopirén, 715 miles south of the capital, Santiago, to Cape Horn, the southern tip of South America, where Chile splinters into fjords and canals.

The park is the brainchild of Kristine McDivitt Tompkins and her husband, Douglas Tompkins, who founded The North Face and Esprit clothing companies, and starting in 1991, put $345 million — much of his fortune — buying large swaths of Patagonia.”

via With 10 Million Acres in Patagonia, a National Park System Is Born – The New York Times