Encourage Colombia to Cleanly Expand Palm Oil Plantations

The South American country of Colombia is the world’s fastest growing and fifth largest producer of palm oil, which is used for cooking and bio-diesel fuel. At least twenty million hectares of Colombia’s land is ineffectively used for agriculture, and this could accommodate many new oil palm plantations. We need to encourage Colombia’s government to use sustainable farming methods so the environment is not harmed during production.

According to John Garcia-Ulloa’s assessment in Lowering environmental costs of oil-palm expansion in Colombia, “Instead of clearing natural forests, it may be able to convert degraded pastures into palm oil plantations, opening up access to the EU and other markets where consumers are demanding sustainably produced oil for cooking, cosmetics and “green energy.”

Palm oil cultivation is nothing new. It started in the 1970′s to supply the domestic food market and has long been tied to a history of illegal harvesting of coca for the drug trade. Thanks to tax breaks and an increase in demand for bio diesel fuel, the industry expanded in the 2000′s. Despite claims that palm producers have caused internal displacement of Colombian residents, the Center for International Forestry Research believes that palm oil plays less of a role in population displacement than originally thought.

And according to expert Garcia-Ulloa, “Colombia may have an advantage over the Indonesian case when it comes to lowering impacts from the expansion of oil-palm. A vast swathe of Colombia’s agricultural land – as much as 20 million hectares – comprises pastures used for ranching, which are “very inefficient due to the use of rudimental production systems. These areas could accommodate new plantations of oil palm, thus avoiding the expansion on other natural ecosystems such as forests or savannahs.”

Sign my petition to urge Colombia’s government to improve agricultural practices for palm oil production to enable the nation to both stabilize their economy and protect the environment.

Save Primates and Forest Plants – Stop Bushmeat Hunting

“Bushmeat hunting” is the hunting of meat from wild animals for human food, and it’s transforming the rain forests throughout Africa. When humans kill gorillas and other primates for food, they can no longer disperse fruit and nut seeds essential to the ecosystem. We must support the efforts of the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force to preserve both primates and forest plants.

Although hunting for bushmeat from endangered primates is illegal, they are frequently used for food in Africa. Protein-rich foods are scarce and there are few taboos about eating primates in African cultures. Newly-built roads allow hunters to sell primate carcasses to city markets, which yield good profits.

According to Sweedish ecologist, Ola Olsson, “The seedling communities of the forest floors are really different in a hunted forest compared to a well-protected forest. In the long run, that’s going to make the hunted forest look quite different from what they do today.” Olsson and his colleagues surveyed plants and animals in the Nigerian Rain Forest and found that the forests of over-hunted areas were lacking seedlings, such as bush mangoes, that rely on primates to spread their seeds.

Other animals, and even humans, depend upon these fruits for nutrition and economic sale. Another ecologist, Joanna Lambert, added that, “Without primates and other large-bodied mammals, forests are not regenerating in the way they’ve evolved to do over millions of years.”

Sign my petition to support the efforts of the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force and stop bushmeat hunting in Africa. With their help, we can increase fines and law enforcement for hunting and selling these meats and improve local access to other types of protein-rich foods.

Demand Federal Funding to Stop Wildlife Smuggling

It is the job of the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife to stop smugglers from illegally transporting animals across international borders. However, the budget-cutting sequester has eliminated hiring initiatives and training programs for border inspectors in the department. We must demand adequate funding from the federal government to train agents and protect our endangered species.

snakeTop law enforcement officer Edward Grace says he’s seen women smuggling monkeys under the guise of pregnancy, men with burlap sacks full of pythons shoved down their pants, and children with pockets full of endangered sea turtles. “Every hour, every day, there’s a wildlife product being smuggled into the United States,” Grace said in a Washington Post interview.

Budget cuts have forced the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife to cancel training for twenty-four new border protection agents, and 14 vacancies for wildlife inspectors at major ports of entry will not be filled. Despite the growing number of endangered and threatened species, the Department has not been allowed to expand since 1978. Since that time, animal poaching has become much more prevalent and the list of protected species has grown exponentially.

Unfortunately, the United States is a popular stop on the illegal trade market. Smugglers often get by with false labeling and secret luggage compartments. “We can’t quantify how much is getting by us,” Officer Grace said. “But do we know stuff is getting by us? Yes. The hiring freeze will result in fewer investigations, making it easier for wildlife-smuggling rings to operate in the U.S.”

Sign my petition to urge the President Obama and Congress to provide adequate federal funding to stop wildlife smugglers from illegally transporting endangered species.

Support Offshore Wind Energy Efforts to Save Endangered Turtles

While drastic climate changes along our Atlantic coast are enabling residents to enjoy longer summer vacations, recent weather phenomenons are threatening the endangered loggerhead sea turtles who call this region home.

Rising Atlantic temperatures are causing fewer eggs of the turtles to produce males. Rising temperatures bias the sex ratio of turtles towards females because temperatures during incubation determines the sex of the egg.  The loggerhead turtle species are already producing an approximated 90% female species due to temperature increases.

If this trend continues, entire populations of turtles along the southern coast will be entirely female. Even with very slight temperature increases of a couple degrees, no males turtle will be born in this region at all.

It’s no secret that the fossil fuel industry is funding initiatives to prevent the growth of clean injury. However, to ensure that loggerhead turtles and other species in the region are preserved, we must ensure that offshore wind plays a major role in the energy future along the Atlantic coast.

Sign the below petition to encourage the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to speed up efforts to develop offshore wind energy, ensuring the survival of some of our most treasured species.

*Please sign the petition on Force Change.


Save Appalachia’s Blair Mountain From Destruction

One of Appalachia’s most important historic landmarks Blair Mountain, is at risk of being destroyed due to mountaintop coal mining initiatives. In fact, mining companies plan to demolish the largest organized armed uprising in American labor history.

Blair MountainBlair Mountain commemorates the brave men and women who risked their lives for a movement that has brought Americans the labor laws relevant today. In 1921, the largest labor insurrection in US History ensued at this site when 10,000 coal miners fought for five days against a coal-operator backed military army.

Five different surface mining permits currently threaten Blair Mountain and national banks continue to fund mining companies planning the destruction of the battlefield and surrounding communities. Mountaintop removal mining is the most destructive form of coal mining and has been referred to as ‘strip mining on steroids’.  This practice will not only wipe out a historic landmark for future generations, but it will also annihilate the region’s ecosystems and  exterminate the plants and animals native to the region.

Efforts to protect this beautiful mountainous region are spearheaded by the Blair Mountain Heritage Alliance. This worthwhile cause needs your support to urge West Virginia’s government and the coal mining industries that the destruction of Blair Mountain is irresponsible and unacceptable.

Photo credit: Bob Peace

McCormick Foundation Continues Support for Poverty-Stricken Children

Children born into poverty are unfairly disadvantaged because the first five years of a child’s life are so developmentally crucial. One of Chicago’s most respected philanthropic organizations, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, continues to help fund early childhood programs like the Ounce of Prevention Fund every year.

The McCormick Foundation was developed by long-time publisher and editor of the Chicago Tribune in 1955. The foundation, which is one of the nation’s largest foundations with more than $1 billion in assets, provides grants for various public service organizations in education, civics, veteran affairs, and journalism. McCormick contributed over $250,000 each year to the Ounce of Prevention Fund each year since 2007. These funds go towards the Fund’s leadership campaigns, general operating support, and public advocacy efforts.

In a June 18, 2012 press release, McCormick’s education program director, Sara Slaughter, stated, “These grants will help Illinois address critical areas, such as principal preparation and the achievement gaps for Latino and African American children.”

The Ounce of Prevention’s objective is to assist children born into poverty with early childhood development during the first five years of life. They directly serve over 4,000 children and families throughout Illinois, train over 3,000 early childhood professionals, and design educational models to prevent academic and social achievement gaps. Ounce relies upon private funding dollars to develop innovative early brain development programs and then leverage public funding to implement and regulate these essential programs.

According to a 2012 policy statement from the Academy of Pediatrics, the number of at-risk children is increasing dramatically. Ounce of Prevention’s president, Diana Rauner, noted that “…in partnership with the McCormick Foundation, we have been at the forefront of efforts to use state and new federal investments to improve and extend the impact of home visiting programs in Illinois.” Voluntary home visiting programs have shown to be one of the most effective methods to help young parents nurture and support their babies, while minimalizing environmental risks.

Robert R. McCormick was one of Chicago’s very first major philanthropists who helped shape the city he loved during his life and beyond. He willed his fortune and estate to the people of Illinois, also leaving behind a legacy of service and a determination to make his community a better place to live for our community’s children.


Prevent Radioactive Metals From Contaminating Recycling

Target: Secretary Steven Chu, U.S. Department of Energy

Goal: Convince the U.S. Department of Energy to make the ban on allowing radioactive metals into recycling permanent.

The U.S. Department of Energy plans to allow radioactive metal from nuclear weapons to contaminate recycling. If their plan succeeds, contaminated metal would be mixed with clean metals, which would be turned into common household products, such as zippers, frying pans, and baby strollers.

Because radiation levels would be low, they argue there would be no need for labels identifying the materials came from nuclear reactors or weapons facilities. Most low-level radioactive materials are disposed into government-licensed landfills. However, the volume of nuclear scrap metal has greatly increased as older reactors are decommissioned and former weapons plants are cleaned up. When radioactive material enters the recycling process and contaminates scrap metal, scrap collectors often mistake their findings for harmless bits of valuable metal. One of the best known examples occurred when three men burgled a radioactive waste store to steal scrap metal in Tammiku, Estonia. One of the men placed a metal pipe in his pocket, giving him a high localized dose of radiation in his leg. In a matter of days, the man died and also contaminated his wife, son, and dog.

There are proven alternatives to nuclear waste disposal that are being utilized around the world. Low-level and short-lived intermediate wastes from decommissioning reactors are best disposed of by compacting and incinerating before burial because radiation levels decrease over time. The international consensus is that long-lived intermediate wastes from fuel reprocessing and high-level wastes from burning of uranium fuel must be safely disposed of deep underground.

Help urge the Department of Energy to make the ban on allowing radioactive metals into recycling permanent. When it comes to substances as lethal as radiation, who can really draw the line between what is dangerous and what is safe?