Clever conservation idea

Save your Logo lets companies who use an animal as a mascot contribute to the conservation of that species.

Save Your Logo creates an opportunity for companies represented by a plant or animal in their logo to contribute to the conservation of that species.

Save Your Logo is an innovative global initiative in the field of biodiversity that involves public and private funding, with supports like the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), the World Bank, the International Union for Nature Conservation and the Endowment Fund for Biodiversity.

Clever little idea, methinks!

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Conservation: When should we compromise?

A very close friend of mine is involved in developing a book about a particular animal. This animal is being considered as and Endangered Species, and my friend’s job is to create a book aimed at land owners that will inform them about this species and how they can help protect it. If they protect the species, there is a possibility that it will never get placed on the endangered species list and thus, these landowners will not have to incur any restrictions on their land, where this species resides. In essence, protecting the species is a win-win for everyone.

The problem is, there are certain truths supported by research that are not supported by the land owners. Livestock grazing, if not done properly, has been found to degrade habitat for this species. However, this group of land owners relies on livestock grazing for their livelihood, and so representatives from this group are speaking out so that nothing about grazing is included in this book. While my friend knows what the research says, he asks himself two questions: a) What will happen if I alienate this group of land owners?  and b) These land owners have been working on the land first-hand for years. What if they know more than isolated research?

I freelance for an organization that helps land owners receive benefits in exchange for protecting and conserving critically endangered wildlife, flora and their habitat. I have seen that working together is often one of the most beneficial solutions to environmental problems and that land owners are the best stewards of their own land. This is one solution to solving a big and complex problem and it benefits everyone involved.

How do we draw the line between compromising for the sake of not offending a group of people versus doing what we believe is right? How do we balance the different interest groups that are involved in any type of decision making on anything in society that is worth debating? How do we really know what’s right? Is it appropriate to take an occasional loss in what we think is right to gain a strategic alliance with a group that may help us in the future?

I suppose the correct answer to these questions will vary from person to person, but from watching my friend’s struggle with this issue I suppose it is sometimes OK to create an alliance with a group of people, taking a small loss, but in the end possibly attaining a milestone in success. The hard thing is choosing your battles. In some cases, it would be wrong to compromise–it may go against your morals. In this case, you should not compromise. You must fight. But I think the most important thing that I have picked up from my friend’s situation, is you must respect others and you must always remember, if you are planning to burn a bridge you better not plan on crossing that bridge again later.

Conservation: Local residents are the answer

Not everyone is familiar with conservation easements, though they are one of the best ways to help bridge the gap between environmentalists and private land owners.

Although they can get very complicated really quick, in their most popular form the basic idea is that ranchers, farmers or other private landowners get paid to not develop their land. This not only benefits many landowners financially, but also ensures that their land will remain in their family. This is very important to many small-time ranchers, for instance, who have made a living off the land and want to ensure that their children can do the same.

This is also great for conservation. Many endangered and imperiled species live on land that is owned privately. By working with local landowners and providing them incentives, government and non-profit environmental organizations can help ensure that species are protected for years to come.

The best kind of conservation takes the human perspective into account. Many organizations and people have made the mistake of putting the environment and animals in competition with people. Conservation easements, however, benefit the environment and local landowners, and put the stewardship back in the hands of the people. Taking people into account is a technique that has been adopted by organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund in many of their projects around the globe: making the people who live on the land the stewards of the land and wildlife. This has shown far greater success than any laws or harsh policing of lands.

I challenge all organizations to follow this approach and truly work with landowners instead of competing against them. Although there are other types of conservation, this surely one of the best ways to successfully conserve the land and wildlife that we love.

How far must we take our moral obligations to the earth?

I am an avid protector of the environment, but I find myself facing daily struggles about how to live my life. I think every environmentalist inevitably faces certain hard decisions every day. On one hand, we want to care for the environment and the world’s wildlife and human populations. On the other hand, this makes life very difficult.

Should I bike to work for 30 minutes in the snow and 8-degree temperature? Should I stop eating the french fries I love so much from McDonald’s? Should I buy only local even though I can barely afford it?

Today I read an article about the effects of birth control hormones when they are flushed down the toilet. According to a University of Idaho press release, “James Nagler, professor of biological sciences, recently discovered that 17α-ethynylestradiol – an active chemical in birth control pills – causes cells in rainbow trout to have an abnormal number of chromosomes.”

There have been studies on the effects of birth control hormones on human populations as well. One study stated that the estrogen that entered drinking water as a result of flushing the toilet could affect the gender of an unborn child, thus causing a positive spike in the birth of female babies.

It would seem ethical then, to cease the use of birth control pills. This, however, fails to address the world’s problem with overpopulation. It also fails to recognize the many health benefits that are offered by birth control pills such as controlling the severity of endometriosis and interstitial cystitis.  Many women even use birth control to lessen the pain of their menstrual cycles.

How do we find a balance then, between protecting the environment and protecting ourselves? I personally suffer from a condition known as interstitial cystitis and have been successfully using birth control as a method of controlling the pain and discomfort associated with the condition for more than a year.

I feel horrible knowing that by treating my condition, I may be negatively affecting human and animal populations. So what are we to do?  Should we all just try to do what we can to help save the environment and worry a little less about the not-so-good things we do to contribute to the problem? Is it enough that I use reusable shopping bags, buy organic, recycle, start a carpool club at work, and write this blog? Or should we all sacrifice just a little more?

Why environmentalism hurts

I’m an environmentalist, and it hurts.

Let me explain. I am one of the lucky people who has been stricken with an undying passion to save the planet. I’m the girl who sobs while watching the wildlife shots on Planet Earth. I get so worked up when thinking about global warming that I literally feel like I alone bear the burden of fighting this global catastrophe.

My mom asks me why I’m so opinionated and my boyfriend says I get too worked up about things I can not change. These comments burden me even further.

The burden of passion

I’m sure some of you can relate to my strife. If you are a passionate person you often feel frustrated and as if you are an outsider fighting for justice. Whether you are an advocate of peace, a better environment or poverty elimination, your passion can move you to tears.

When we care so deeply about something it is hard to separate ourselves and unburden our hearts.

Accepting the burden

I have recently decided that I do not want to be unburdened. It is the burden that pushes me to do great things. It is the burden that makes me want to prove others wrong and make a difference when no one thought it could be done.

Some people think I’m a crazy environmentalist with too many opinions, but I pity those who live without such passion. While they may not feel the “burden” they do not feel the joy in knowing that they have something to believe in.

And I do.

Easy ways to give back this Earth Day

Today is Earth Day and it’s time to give back to Mother Earth. If you aren’t already a particulary environmental person, try doing something sweet for the planet to show your respect. Environmentalist or not, here are three quick tips for this Earth Day (and for every day):

1. Plant a tree

Planting a tree is a wonderful way to go green this Earth Day. If planting your own tree isn’t possible this Earth Day, many environmental organizations let you plant a tree with just a few clicks of the mouse (and a modest donation).

You can plant a tree for $1 through the Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion campaign. Your money will help The Nature Conservancy plant trees in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. The Nature Conservancy hopes to plant one billion trees throughout the forest in the next seven years.

You can also plant a tree through Tree Nation, which is supported by the United Nations Environment Programme. Tree Nation’s goal is to plant 8 million trees in Niger, Africa, with the hopes of ending desertification in the region. The organization works with local community members and plants trees native to the region.

2. Buy a reusable shopping bag

Many non-profit environmental organizations sell reusable shopping bags. You can also try the following organizations to buy affordable reusable bags online:

Green Feet

ECOBAGS

Many stores, such as Wal-Mart and Toys R’ Us, also sell reusable bags in their stores, but you can use any large sack or duffel bag to do the job. At the very least, make sure you ask for a paper bag instead of a plastic bag when you go to the store.

3. Pick up someone else’s trash

Last night I was taking a walk in the park and I noticed a woman who was picking up garbage as she walked along the trail. Although she got some weird stares from some people, she was doing something really positive for the environment. No doubt she went home that night with a feeling of accomplishment. I often pick up trash that I see on the ground, which usually goes to my recycling bin. I encourage everyone to do the same and make your city or town just a little bit cleaner.

Happy Earth Day!

My outcry against bags

I have a beef with bags, and the people who misuse them.

My mother thinks it’s cute that I get so mad because the cashier at the grocery store put the milk in its own separate plastic bag. She even thinks it’s cute when I tell her not to put her bananas in those useless produce bags at the grocery store. I mean, aren’t the bananas touting a protective yellow peel anyway?

My friends also think I’m crazy when I vent over the fact that the cashiers at Chipotle always try to put my burrito bowl in a sack. Seriously? Why do I need an entire sack for something that is already in a case? This goes the same for any restaurant (not to mention those heinous styrofoam leftover carriers).

What amazes me is that people think they need to put everything in separate bags. What further disgruntles me is those organizations that still use plastic bags, even though plastic bags could take anwhere from a year to more than 250 years to decompose. To me, this just seems like a flagrant diregard for the environment.

Stores like Wal-Mart have started selling “eco-friendly” bags, but I wonder how many people actually buy and use these bags to carry their groceries. Most people seem perfectly content with putting their bananas (which they have already bagged in produce bag) in another plastic bag. They leave the store with something like 20 new plastic bags in their cart, which they probably end up throwing away (although Wal-Mart offers to let you bring back your used plastic sacks for recycling).

So where am I left in this mess of bag? I am that annoying lady in front of you at Chipotle who specifically asks for the special “bag” person NOT to bag my stuff. I am the annoying girl in the self-checkout line of the grocery store who is either bagging my stuff into a tote bag or searching for paper sacks (they are usually hidden away somewhere). If I accompany you on a shopping trip, I might even re-allocate the contents of your plastic sacks and give one of the empty bags back to the cashier (who is surely scowling at me). No matter where I am, I usually draw annoyed looks and weird stares.

My solution

Stores need to stop carrying plastic sacks. They should give patrons their own reusable sacks that they can bring along to the grocery store. Most grocery stores already track their customers through some identification system already, so they would be able to easily track who has received a reusable sack from the store. No bag, no service. Or, no bag, then carry your stuff out by hand. If the patron needs new sacks, they can conveniently purchase them from the store. This would not only reduce consumption and waste, but it would also profit the company, who would no longer need to invest in those fleeting plastic bags.

At the very least, stores and people should not needlessly bag items. Don’t put those bananas in the produce bag. Don’t put your milk or laundry detergent in a separate sack. Heck, don’t put these in a sack at all. They already have handles for you to carry them with.