Sunday, October 31, 2010

Convention on Biological Diversity

Joseph Ingoldsby

Nagoya, Japan 29 October 2010

The nations of the world united and came to a common accord to exercise their collective rights of responsibility, to protect and restore Earth’s biodiversity from potential extinctions and the effects of climate change. A welcome had been extended to all governments to join the UN Family of Nations in this Year of Biodiversity. The new strategy links climate change, biodiversity and the Millennium Development Goals with concrete targets and implementation, in cooperation with the developed and developing countries.

The Strategic Plan of the Convention on Biological Diversity

According to statements issued by the UN Convention on Biodiversity, The Strategic Plan of the Convention on Biological Diversity or the “Aichi Target”, adopted by the meeting includes 20 headline targets, organized under five strategic goals that address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss, reduce the pressures on biodiversity, safeguard biodiversity at all levels, enhance the benefits provided by biodiversity, and provide for capacity-building.

Convention and the Strategic Plan

The 2010 UN Biodiversity Aichi Target was based upon the UN Convention of Biological Diversity strategic planning document Global Biodiversity Outlook 2 prepared for the 2010 Nagoya, Japan CBD Conference and included the following focal areas:

Focal Area: Reducing the rate of loss of the components of biodiversity, including: (i) biomes, habitats and ecosystems; (ii) species and populations; and (iii) genetic diversity.

Focal Area: Maintaining ecosystem integrity, and the provision of goods and services provided by biodiversity in ecosystems, in support of human well-being

Focal Area: Addressing the major threats to biodiversity, including those arising from invasive alien species, climate change, pollution, and habitat change

Focal Area: Promoting sustainable use of biodiversity

Focal Area: Protecting traditional knowledge, innovations and practices

Focal Area: Ensuring the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of genetic resources

Focal Area: Mobilizing financial and technical resources, especially for developing countries, in particular, least developed countries and small island developing states among them, and countries with economies in transition, for implementing the Convention and Strategic Plan.


Aichi Target Strategic Goals:

The Aichi Target strategic goals agreed to by the global signatories to the UN Convention on BIodiversity seek to:

  • address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss;
  • reduce the pressures on biodiversity;
  • safeguard biodiversity at all levels;
  • enhance the benefits provided by biodiversity;
  • provide for capacity building.
Aichi Target Strategic Goal Implementation:
Signatories agreed to:
  • halve and where feasible bring close to zero the rate of loss of natural habitats including forests;
  • establish a target of 17 % of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10 % of marine and coastal areas;
  • through conservation and restoration, Governments will restore at least 15 % of degraded areas;
  • and will make special efforts to reduce the pressures faced by coral reefs.

Financing: Countries have pledged their financial support. The Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Naoto Kan, announced 2 billion United States dollars in financing, the Minister of Environment of Japan announced the establishment of a Japan Biodiversity Fund. Additional financial resources were announced by France, the European Union and Norway. Some 110 million United States dollars were mobilized in support of projects under the CBD LifeWeb Initiative aimed at enhancing the protected-area agenda. Financial support for the Strategic Plan will be provided under the framework of the resource mobilization strategy. Parties will work to define in time for the eleventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties in 2012, the targets and mechanisms through which financial resources can be identified, unleashed and channeled.

Protocol: Parties adopted the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization. The historic agreement creates a framework that balances access to genetic resources on the basis of prior informed consent and mutually agreed terms with the fair and equitable sharing of benefits while taking into account the important role of traditional knowledge. The Protocol also proposes the creation of a global multilateral mechanism that will operate in transboundary areas or situations where prior informed consent cannot be obtained.

Enactment: The Nagoya Protocol is expected to enter into force by 2012, with support from the Global Environment Facility of one million United States dollars to support early entry into force.

Education: The importance of better integrating the biodiversity agenda with that of climate change and land degradation was covered in the dynamic programme of events and activities at the Ecosystems Pavilion (www.ecosystemspavilion.org), where heads of agencies and international organizations discussed the ways that all three agendas could be implemented in support of sustainable development."

Report issued by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, 29/10/2010

Joseph Ingoldsby writes and advocates for biodiversity. Recent works include Vanishing Landscapes and Endangered Species, The Science Exhibition: Curation & Design, Museums etc Press, UK, 2010; Green Sanctuaries at Mass Audubon, Sustainable Museums: Strategies for the 21st Century, Museums etc Press, UK, 2010.

http://josephemmanuelingoldsby.com/



Wednesday, September 15, 2010

HOME

HOME
A FILM BY
YANN ARTHUS - BERTRAND

http://www.youtube.com/homeproject


HOME is one of the most beautifully filmed and poetically written tributes to life on Earth, and a testament to life's fragility, and humans' future on this planet called HOME.

All life is interrelated; woven of the water, of the Earth, and of the air. We must listen to the story of Mother Earth told gently to her children. We must listen and cooperate as one people to survive for we live in exceptional times. Scientists tell us that we have 10 years to change the way we live, avert the depletion of natural resources, and the catastrophic evolution of the Earth's climate. The stakes are high for us and higher for our children. It is too late to be pessimistic. Everyone should take part in the effort. HOME has been conceived to take a message of mobilization out to every human being - together.

For this purpose, HOME needs to be free. A patron, the PPR Group, made this possible. EuropaCorp, the distributor, also pledged not to make any profit, because HOME is a non-profit film. HOME has been made for you. Share it! And act for the planet.

HOME official website
http://www.home-2009.com


PPR is proud to support HOME
http://www.ppr.com


HOME is a carbon offset movie
http://www.actioncarbone.org


More information about the Planet
http://www.goodplanet.info


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Endangered to Extinction: Biodiversity in Crisis

Joseph Ingoldsby

The Nations of the world recently gathered in London for a UN Convention on Biodiversity and Climate Change. 2010 has been named the International Year of Biodiversity by the United Nations. An urgent call to action has been issued to all nations of the world to cooperate and collaborate as a global community to protect the biodiversity of Earth. What is biodiversity you ask? According to Dr. Eleanor Sterling, Director of the American Museum of Natural History’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, “Biodiversity refers to the variety of life on Earth at all its levels, from genes to ecosystems, and the ecological and evolutionary processes that sustain it.”

In a keynote address, Ahmed Djoghlaf, Secretary-General of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity expressed concern on the lack of international binding commitments and coordinated action to protect the Earth’s biodiversity and to ameliorate climate change. We are losing biodiversity at an unprecedented rate due to habitat change, overexploitation, pollution, invasive alien species and climate change. The UN Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 states that there are multiple indications of biodiversity decline of genes, species and ecosystems. Nearly 25% of the world’s plant species are threatened with extinction. Globally, amphibians are great risk of extinction. The populations of vertebrate species fell by 33 % between 1970 and 2006 with severe declines within freshwater ecosystems and in the tropics. Scientists estimate that 15% of mammal species and 11% of bird species are classified as threatened. Coral species are deteriorating with ocean warming and acidification. Natural habitats worldwide are declining in extent and integrity due to fragmentation, overdevelopment and climate change. The UN Environment Programme has issued an astonishing report, which states that: “150-200 species of plant, insect, bird and mammal become extinct every 24 hours.” Secretary-General Djoghlaf says “The future of the planet now depends on governments taking action in the next few years.”

UN Environment Programme - Coral Reefs

Why should we care? UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon states that the reasons are ecological and economic. He outlines the ecosystem services that protect people and their infrastructure, like coastal wetlands minimizing the impact of storm surges, sadly realized too late when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans or the cutting of the mangrove swamps for unsustainable shrimp farms and beach development and the tragic loss of life and property from tsunamis in South East Asia. Ecosystems protect infrastructure. New York City enjoys cheap and clean tap water because the city chose to protect the Catskills watershed, saving several billion dollars in the process. According to the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, “Ecosystems provide services such as pollination, seed dispersal, climate regulation, water purification, nutrient cycling, and control of agricultural pests.”

According to the Secretary, “A UN-backed study estimates the loss of natural capital due to deforestation and land degradation alone at between $2 trillion and $4.5 trillion each year.” Environmental protection and economic protection are two sides of the same coin. He urged member states to invest in sustainable development, which will assist indigenous people to protect the biodiversity in developing countries and meet the Millennium Development Goals of food security, poverty eradication and world health and to build resilience to climate change. Biodiversity and climate change are mutually interdependent. Continued deforestation, over-fishing, industrial agriculture, and introduced invasive species will continue the high rate of extinctions and loss of habitats and exacerbate climate change impacts. Programs as the UNDP Equator Initiative, and the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Program have been put in place to provide assistance. Norway has pledged 500 million to prevent the deforestation of the rainforest for monoculture crops within rainforest settings. The Amazon forest will reach a tipping point if 20-30% of the forest is cut or burned creating savannas prone to drought cycles and fire. Today 17% of the Brazilian rainforest has been cut and burned. According to Veerle Vandeweerd, UNDP Environment and Energy Group, three quarters of the world’s population rely on the natural environment for survival. 1.5 billion people live in dry lands and 1 billion people rely on sustenance fishing. There is a need for poverty reduction and biodiversity protection.


UN Environment Programme - Our Planet

We need a new strategy that links climate change, biodiversity, and the Millennium Development Goals with concrete targets and implementation in cooperation with the developed and developing countries. According to Stas Burgiel in Convention on Biological Diversity: a progress report, “The UN Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) is the single most important international agreement designed to protect the world’s biodiversity, to encourage the sustainable use of biological resources, and to ensure the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from such use.” The Convention was signed at the Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 1992 Conference on Environment and Development- known as the Earth Summit. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety was adopted on 11 September 2003. It establishes rules under which crops and other organisms, which have been genetically modified, can be transferred from one country to another. According to Stas Burgiel’s Convention on Biological Diversity: a progress report- “The United States was perhaps foremost among developed countries in resisting potential restrictions on biotechnology and intellectual property rights. Indeed, President Bush (senior) refused to sign the CBD at the Earth Summit in Rio. Although President Clinton signed the Convention two years later, so far, the United States remains one of a small handful of countries that has not ratified the agreement, and so has refused to frame its own national laws in line with the CBD.” Policies must be put in place to protect indigenous knowledge of medicines and cures from the extractive and exclusive corporate explorers who patent local knowledge without proper recompense.

The Fifth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties, (COP-10) and the Cartagena Protocol for Biosafety, (COP-MOP 5) will be held in Nagoya, Japan on 29 October 2010. Perhaps the cataclysmic loss of life within the coastal ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico, with the devastating floods within Pakistan, and the unprecedented smoldering fires in Russia, broadcast around the world, will galvanize global governments to act responsibly to represent the best interests of their people on this blue planet we share with all life in this time of crisis. The nations of the world must be united and just if we are to come to a common accord to exercise our collective Rights of Responsibility, to protect and restore Earth’s biodiversity from potential extinctions and the effects of climate change. A welcome has been extended to all governments to join the Family of Nations in this Year of Biodiversity.

© Joseph Emmanuel Ingoldsby, 2010

Joseph Ingoldsby, writes and advocates for biodiversity. Recent works include Vanishing Landscapes and Endangered Species, The Science Exhibition: Curation & Design, Museums etc Press, UK, 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Indigenous Rights of Responsibility vs. Imperial Manifest Destiny

Joseph Ingoldsby

With battles raging and saber rattling, America embroils herself in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, North Korea, Columbia and on countless other fronts. We must ask the question- why? What are the historic origins of the American empire and what is the impact of the American empire on biodiversity? With the expansion of American territories and corporate globalism through wars and saber rattling for natural resources as oil, minerals, bio-cultural properties and strategic locations; the American empire stretches itself thin, as it destroys the ecosystems and cultures of the occupied nations. Empire need not have been the result of the American experiment. Two paths could have been taken in the creation of the American experiment called democracy. In the following passages, I chart out the ramifications of those original choices on the biodiversity of America and consider opportunities for change in the future.

If you look at the symbols that represent America with an inquiring eye, you will see in the Great Seal of the United States the concept of a confederacy of states with that of manifest destiny. You might say that the choice of symbols set the precedent and foreshadowed the future actions of the United States to this day. Democracy was a concept foreign to the monarchies of Great Britain and the European continent. The precedent of a confederacy, the use of the native bald eagle and the bundle of arrows are American by origin.

The concept was not original but was based on the oldest continuous democracy found by the colonists on these native soils. The Haudenosaunee Confederacy represents the peaceful union of five tribes: the Onondaga, Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, and Mohawk to live by the Great Law, which sets forth a vision of right relationships between people and the Earth. Oral history says their arrows, which can be broken singly, were bound together in a union of strength that could not be broken. The Bald Eagle depicted on the Great Seal of the United States holds a scroll within his beak, which reads E pluribus unum, which translates from the Latin, “Out of many, one.” The Haudenosaunee Confederacy tribal government included both the Bill of Rights, with equality and representation for all; as well as the Bill of Responsibilities, which defined their relationship within the web of life to Mother Earth. Thus was born what the European settlers understood as the Great League of the Iroquois, the oldest continuous democracy on Earth.

The colonists were aware of the Native cultures and efforts were made to translate their words. Invitations were extended for native delegations to visit Washington as treaties of understanding were being drafted. However, the Continental Congress selectively edited the Great Laws of the Haudensaunee Confederacy to suit their expansive intentions. An Onondaga elder relates that the colonists adapted the Bill of Rights but did not include the Rights of Responsibility within their new Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. The Articles of the Confederation were replaced by the United States Constitution, on June 21, 1788.

On the opposite side of the Great Seal of the United States is a thirteen stepped pyramid, representing the thirteen colonies, with the Eye of Providence at the pyramid’s pinnacle. The motto- Annuit Coeptis, translated from the Latin reads: “God is favorable to our undertakings” or Manifest Destiny. At the base of the pyramid, a scroll unfolds which reads Novus Ordo Seclorum, which translates as “New Order of the Ages”. MDCCLXXVI is carved into the pyramid’s base, which sets the date of the new American era as 1776.

Thomas Jefferson began the calculated exploration and documentation of the new frontier, which doubled in size with the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Jefferson quickly ordered “exploration and documentation” of the vast territory. In 1804, he appointed Lewis and Clark to lead an expedition "to explore the Missouri river, and such principal stream of it, as, by its course and communication with the waters of the Pacific Ocean; whether the Columbia, Oregon, Colorado or any other river may offer the most direct and practicable communication across the continent for the purposes of commerce." The push to the Pacific was providential and commercial.

American Progress, John Gast, 1872










Manifest Destiny

John L. O'Sullivan, a columnist for the Democratic Review, coined the phrase "Manifest Destiny" in an editorial entitled Annexation in 1845. He stated that "the annexation of Texas and the whole of Oregon was our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions." The preordained and imperial drive of Manifest Destiny across America was so successful that by the late 1800's to the early 1900's, the natural and cultural landscapes of America had been radically transformed from estuary to port, from forest to city, from prairie to farmland, from plains to rangeland, and from mountains to mines. The privatization and commodification of land reduced the landscapes, species and cultures to a fraction of their former whole.

We live in a time of vanishing landscapes and endangered species. E.O. Wilson states that “Over the next half century, up to one third of the world’s plant and animal species may be lost forever. Conservation biologists regard this as the first mass extinction since the age of the dinosaurs.” In the United States alone 30% of the nation’s plant and animal species are at risk of disappearing and over 500 species are missing or may already be extinct. We have lost over half of our nation’s original wetlands, 98% of our tall-grass prairies and virtually all virgin forests east of the Rockies. Since the colonization of America, four American bird species have gone extinct, including the Passenger Pigeon, once the world’s most abundant bird. Today there is recognition that change is progressing with such speed that shifts and loss of plants and species can be documented within our lifetime.

The industrialization and dependence on extractive technologies for fossil fuels has accelerated the loss of landscapes and species. Recent projections on the velocity of climate change by scientists at the Carnegie Institution, Stanford University, the California Academy of Sciences and the University of California at Berkeley calculated the temperature velocity for different parts of the world based on current and projected future climate models. The findings pinpoint those ecosystems of critical environmental concern where biodiversity is most threatened by the speed of climate change. The study found that global warming would impact flat areas as mangrove swamps, flooded grasslands, coastal marshes and savannas with a velocity of 1 km a year. At higher elevations of the montane grasslands and shrublands, the projected velocity is charted at 110 meters per year. Within the tropical and subtropical coniferous forests, the movement of landscape boundaries would average 80 meters a year. This will lead to a relocation of plant and animal species to shifting landscapes or to extinctions within a lifetime.

Perhaps our Founding Fathers should have listened to the Haudenosaunee Confederacy to live by the Great Law, which sets forth a vision of right relationships between people and Earth; and included both the Bill of Rights, with equality and representation for all; as well as the Bill of Responsibilities, which defined their relationship within the web of life to Mother Earth. Today indigenous people of the world are forming their own Confederacy to protect what remains of their cultures through actions such as the passage of the Pachymama in Ecuador, which includes the Rights of Nature. Rights include the protection of ecosystems, organisms and cultures, including bio-cultural heritage from corporate “bio-piracy” and the colonial extraction of ecological wealth.

2010 has been named the International Year of Biodiversity by the United Nations. An urgent call to action has been issued to all nations of the world to cooperate and collaborate as a global community to protect the biodiversity of Earth. What is biodiversity you ask? According to Dr. Eleanor Sterling, Director of the American Museum of Natural History’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, “Biodiversity refers to the variety of life on Earth at all its levels, from genes to ecosystems, and the ecological and evolutionary processes that sustain it.”

Why should we care? Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon states that the reasons are ecological and economic. He outlines the ecosystem services that protect people and their infrastructure, like coastal wetlands minimizing the impact of storm surges, sadly realized too late when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans or the cutting of the mangrove swamps for unsustainable shrimp farms and beach development and the tragic loss of life and property from tsunamis in South East Asia. Ecosystems protect infrastructure. New York City enjoys cheap and clean tap water because the city chose to protect the Catskills watershed, saving several billion dollars in the process. According to the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, “Ecosystems provide services such as pollination, seed dispersal, climate regulation, water purification, nutrient cycling, and control of agricultural pests.”

According to the Secretary, “A UN-backed study estimates the loss of natural capital due to deforestation and land degradation alone at between $2 trillion and $4.5 trillion each year.” Environmental protection and economic protection are two sides of the same coin. He urged member states to invest in sustainable development, which will assist indigenous people to protect the biodiversity in developing countries and meet the Millennium Development Goals and build resilience to climate change. Programs as the UNDP Equator Initiative, and the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Program have been put in place to provide assistance. Norway has pledged 500 million to prevent deforestation, though questions remain of reforestation of monoculture crops within rainforest settings. According to Veerle Vandeweerd, UNDP Environment and Energy Group, three quarters of the world’s population rely on the natural environment for survival. 1.5 billion people live in dry lands and 1 billion people rely on sustenance fishing. There is a need for poverty reduction and biodiversity protection.

We need a new strategy that links climate change, biodiversity, and the Millennium Development Goals with concrete targets and implementation in cooperation with the developed and developing countries. According to Stas Burgiel in Convention on Biological Diversity: a progress report, “The UN Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) is the single most important international agreement designed to protect the world’s biodiversity, to encourage the sustainable use of biological resources, and to ensure the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from such use.” The Convention was signed at the Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 1992 Conference on Environment and Development- known as the Earth Summit. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety was adopted on 11 September 2003. It establishes rules under which crops and other organisms, which have been genetically modified, can be transferred from one country to another. According to Stas Burgiel’s Convention on Biological Diversity: a progress report- “The United States was perhaps foremost among developed countries in resisting potential restrictions on biotechnology and intellectual property rights. Indeed, President Bush (senior) refused to sign the CBD at the Earth Summit in Rio. Although President Clinton signed the Convention two years later, so far, the United States remains one of a small handful of countries that has not ratified the agreement, and so has refused to frame its own national laws in line with the CBD.” Policies must be put in place to protect indigenous knowledge of medicines and cures from the extractive and exclusive corporate explorers who patent local knowledge without proper recompense.

The Fifth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties, (COP-10) and the Cartagena Protocol for Biosafety, (COP-MOP 5) will be held in Nagoya, Japan on 29 October 2010. Perhaps the cataclysmic loss of life within the coastal ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico broadcast around the world will galvanize our President and members of Congress to act responsibly to represent the best interests of her people on this blue planet we share with all life in this time of crisis. The nations of the world must be like the bundle of arrows in the talons of the eagle- united, strong and just, if we are to come to a common accord to exercise our collective Rights of Responsibility to protect and restore Earth’s biodiversity from extinction. A welcome has been extended to the United States to join the Family of Nations in this Year of Biodiversity.

© Joseph Emmanuel Ingoldsby, 2010



Joseph Ingoldsby, writes and advocates for biodiversity. Recent works include Vanishing Landscapes and Endangered Species, The Science Exhibition: Curation & Design, Museums etc Press, UK, 2010; Icons of the Vanishing Prairies, 2009; Vanishing Landscapes: The Atlantic Salt Marsh, Leonardo Journal, 42-2-2009 MIT Press and Requiem for a Drowning Landscape, Orion Magazine, March/April 2009.


Web site: www.JosephIngoldsby.com

Blog site: EarthElegies.blogspot.com


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bellwether Indicators of Cape Cod’s Salt Marshes

Joseph Ingoldsby

As you sit on the beaches of Cape Cod this summer, look closer at the subtle changes to the coastal landscape that herald shifting landscapes and species in a rapidly changing world. For example, the advance of the southern Sesarma reticulatum crab around the tip of Provincetown to Wellfleet and beyond raises a number of questions about observable changes due to climate change. Ocean temperature increases with increased tidal inundation and incremental sea level rise along the coast are precipitating a migration of species and a loss of biodiversity. The advance and colonization of the Sesarma crab to Cape Cod represents a broken trophic cascade, where native predators are missing from the equation. The raccoon population on Cape Cod has crashed with outbreaks of distemper. The night herons lost their historic rookeries to development of coastal properties along the shore. The diamondback terrapin ended up in the soup pots of sailing ships. The predacious blue crab was slow to follow the expansion of the nocturnal Sesarma crab, which over-winters deep beneath the peat and root mass of the tall Spartina alterniflora. The Low Marsh Zone serves as a protective defense between land and sea.

The High Marsh Zone has not been spared from the incremental changes of ocean warming and expansion. Spartina patens- salt marsh grass has been documented to die back along the tidal creeks, where tidal inundation is more frequent and prolonged. The weakened plants are more susceptible to disease and there is debate on the opportunistic infection of pathogens and galls, affecting the Spartina patens plants in certain regions along the Atlantic coast.

Scientists express concern about documented changes along the coastal Atlantic. In the journal Nature, scientists from the United States, Britain, Germany and Japan said they have found "robust" evidence that sea levels have risen over the past 16 years as the upper layers of the world's oceans have warmed and caused water expansion. They looked to the ocean for signals of climate change because the oceans absorb up to 90 percent of the heat that reaches Earth from the sun. The oceans have warmed by at least three-tenths of a degree Fahrenheit since 1993, and where sea levels were rising by only 1 millimeter a year 100 years ago, the rate is now 3 millimeters a year, said John Lyman, an oceanographer with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. The effects may seem small, but they are highly significant, he said.

Recent projections on the velocity of climate change by scientists at the Carnegie Institution, Stanford University, the California Academy of Sciences and the University of California, Berkeley calculated the temperature velocity for different parts of the world based on current and projected future climate models. The findings pinpoint those ecosystems of critical environmental concern where biodiversity is most threatened by the speed of climate change. The study found that global warming would impact flatter areas as mangrove swamps, flooded grasslands, coastal marshes and savannas with a velocity of 1 km a year.

This will lead to a relocation of plant and animal species to shifting landscapes or extinctions within the century. Scientists have told the UN that our actions have pushed extinctions to 1,000 times the historic natural background rate. Biodiversity losses accelerate as ecosystems approach tipping points. The five main pressures driving biodiversity loss are habitat change, over-exploitation, pollution, invasive alien species and climate change.

In the United States alone, 30% of the nation’s plant and animal species are at risk of disappearing, and over 500 species are missing or may already be extinct. We have lost over half of our nation’s original wetlands, 98% of our tall-grass prairies, 99% of America’s original savannas, and virtually all virgin forests east of the Rockies. Today, there is recognition that change is progressing with such speed that shifts and loss of plants and species can be documented within our lifetime.

© Joseph Emmanuel Ingoldsby, 2010

My related publications include Vanishing Landscapes: The Atlantic Salt Marsh, Leonardo Journal 42-2-2009, MIT Press; Requiem for a Drowning Landscape, Orion Magazine, 2009; and Vanishing Landscapes and Endangered Species, The Science Exhibition- Curation and Design, Museums etc Press, U.K. 2010

Joseph Ingoldsby can be reached at landscapemosaics@verizon.net


Silent Summer - Gulf of Mexico Oil Disaster Impacts

Joseph Ingoldsby

Residents from the Gulf of Mexico report that schools of fish, manta rays, sharks, dolphins and sea turtles are fleeing the plumes of oil and solvents to the shallow waters off of the coasts of Alabama and Florida. Marine biologists from Duke University state that that the animals sense the change in water chemistry and try to escape the contaminated water dead zones by swimming toward the oxygen rich shallows. Here, they could be trapped between the approaching plumes of oil and the shoreline. Scientists warn of a mass die-off.

Death comes in the spawning and nesting season within the Gulf of Mexico’s bio-diverse ecosystems. We have witnessed the immediate impact of oil on the threatened brown pelican, the egrets, the laughing gulls and other shore and migratory birds, grounded with oiled plumage as they try to rear their spring nestlings. This is also the time when the endangered Kemp Ridley turtles migrate through the Gulf of Mexico to spawn, and when loggerhead turtles drag themselves up on the Gulf sands to lay their eggs. Their hatchlings face an uncertain future as they return to the polluted Gulf of Mexico to begin their life’s journey. This is also the time when the endangered manatees leave their winter gathering spots in warm springs to migrate to their summer range along the Gulf coast and the time when Gulf sturgeon congregate in coastal waters for upstream migration exposing them to harm.

We do not readily see the impact to the diverse marine fisheries of the Gulf and Atlantic. The Gulf of Mexico is the nursery for a host of marine species, including the embattled western Atlantic blue fin tuna. The Gulf of Mexico is the principal spawning ground of the migratory Western Atlantic tuna. Their spawning coincided with the Horizon oil disaster. The larval and juvenile fish are most vulnerable to the toxic effects of oil and dispersants documented within their spawning ground. Scientific analysis of the viability of the 2010 spawning is necessary to determine the future health of the tuna population. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the Atlantic blue fin tuna population has fallen 90% since the 1970s and the species faces a serious risk of extinction.

With the loss of the fisheries and the shrimp and oyster operations, go the fishing communities and a way of life on the bayou. Fishing is often familial and multigenerational. The Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and sinking may have broken the familial transferal of working knowledge between father and son and from son to grandson. No one knows how many years it will take for the Gulf of Mexico to heal from the deadly infusion of oil, methane and toxic dispersants.

The tragedy on the Gulf Coast galvanizes public attention as images of the slow demise of brown pelicans, sea turtles, dolphins, sperm whales and sea birds covered in oil flood our television screens. We are looking at the expansion of eutrophic dead zones; the contamination of the entire water column in the Gulf of Mexico- killing deep-water corals and giant squid to the black skimmers feeding on the surface; the tragic loss of species and biodiversity; and the potential disappearance of the fishing cultures of the Gulf. This will be the “Silent Summer” that could last for years. The poisonous mix of oil, methane and dispersants could be the final nail in the coffin of these vanishing landscapes and endangered species.

We know from past oil spills that the toxic effects continue decades later. Long time residents of New England may remember the grounding of the oil tanker, Florida, which broke up on the rocky shoals off Old Silver Beach, West Falmouth on 16 September 1969 spewing 189,000 gallons of #2 fuel into Buzzards Bay. Scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution documented the damages to the marine ecosystem and coastline over the ensuing years. Their observations are helpful to codify the environmental damages to sensitive coastal wetlands by oil contamination. To this day, toxic oil remains in the sediment layers of the marshlands ringing the Falmouth shore and oil continues to inhibit growth and colonization of the subsoil by the marsh grass roots, fiddler crabs and other organisms. The vertical burrows of the fiddler crabs veer horizontally avoiding the oil stained layer of soil. The marsh grass roots stop above the oil and spread horizontally, 41 years after the Buzzards Bay oil spill.

Retired Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Marine biologist, George Hampson has observed the daily impact of oil on the sensitive estuary since that unprecedented day in 1969. He spoke of animals coming out of the sediments because the oil was saturating the flats and marshlands All of the clams rose to the surface and extended their long necks trying to escape the oil along with invertebrates which floated to the surface. Soon the tide pools were filled with life, where they slowly died. This was called the “Silent Fall” because all of the birds and animals were gone.

Now along the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico we see the “Silent Summer” of dead and dying animals trying to escape the poisonous mix of oil and the dispersant Corexit combined with the oxygen depleting methane gas. Video footage documents crabs climbing out of the water as a toxic sheen approaches the shore. In the morning the crabs are floating belly up in the water. The air is laden with chemicals wafting up from the water, which has become poisonous to marine life and the fumes dangerous to the long term health of those who breathe it.

According to scientific studies, the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989 resulted in profound physiological effects to fish and wildlife. These included reproductive failure, genetic damage, curved spines, lowered growth and body weights, altered feeding habits, reduced egg volume, liver damage, eye tumors, and debilitating brain lesions. Reports document that oil cleanup workers exposed to hot water beach washing of the toxic oil and dispersant mix in 1989 filed compensation claims for respiratory system damage, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Many have debilitating medical complications 21 years later. These ailments include respiratory, nervous system, liver, kidney and blood disorders. History repeats itself.

The only hope is that this unnatural disaster will galvanize the public’s attention and give the President and members of Congress the courage to protect Nature's biodiversity through national and international efforts; to provide safeguards and professional regulatory oversight of extractive industries; and to promote and substantively fund alternative energy sources and clean, green technologies for our future. Scientists document that we are approaching the tipping point for irreversible climate change from fossil fuel greenhouse gas emissions. Have we reached the critical juncture of peak oil and technological change? We must plan for a smooth transition from oil to a decentralized system of renewable power generation and conservation. America must marshal her scientific and technological communities in a national effort, like the Space Program of the 1960s, to determine America's energy future. America must create and install a smart grid; and develop economical, regionalized sustainable technologies to restore this Blue Planet we share with all life. Now is not the time for equivocation. We must embrace the future or be damned by the next generation.

© Joseph Emmanuel Ingoldsby, 2010

Joseph Emmanuel Ingoldsby writes and exhibits on issues relating to biodiversity. Recent publications include Vanishing Landscapes and Endangered Species, The Science Exhibition: Curation and Design, Museum Press, UK, 2010; Vanishing Landscapes: The Atlantic Salt Marsh, Leonardo Journal, 42-2-2009, MIT Press; and Requiem for a Drowning Landscape, Orion Magazine, 4-2009.

The author can be reached for comment at landscapemosaics@verizon.net

Farming Futures

Joseph Ingoldsby

Water and Grasses

Verlyn Klinkenborg paints the scenery with the lush color of a Constable painting as he travels across the plains to the heartland on his journey to the Hudson River Valley. The view is nostalgic as the signs along the roadway describing landscapes that no longer exist. The plains of the west and the prairies of the heartland are gone.

In the space of a single lifetime, between 1830 and 1900, the biodiverse, tallgrass prairie was steadily transformed to farmland. Centuries of accumulated loess and organic matter created a thick mantle of topsoil, which was opened for farming with the 1837 invention of the steel plow by John Deere in Grand Detour on the Rock River in Illinois. Today, 98% of the original tall grass prairie has been converted to agriculture. The tall­grass prairie has become the breadbasket of America. Over time the family farm has been replaced by the corporate family farm and corporate agribusiness. Now, seed is patented and crops are commodified with miles of monoculture crops signed with patent identifications. Concern has been raised about the impact of agribusiness on the family farm and the impact of genetically engineered and ethanol monoculture crops on the surrounding landscape and species.

Viewed from a distance at sixty miles per hour, the scenery is evocative of a time when we worked the land, raised our families and followed the cycle of the seasons. From the highway, the rivers are beautiful and full as we pass by; that is true. But watch the rivers after a rainstorm when the chemical laden silt from unsustainable farming turns the waters brown with runoff. The chemically laden silt causes eutrophication or hypoxic dead zones where rivers meet the sea. Today, we are witnessing the near total collapse of the natural and cultural landscapes of the American grasslands to corporate agriculture and developmental sprawl at a time of peak oil.

http://www.postcarbon.org/book/40578-peak-oil-for-policymakers-dvd

Perhaps there is something to be said about the return of the land ethic, sustainable farming practices, permaculture, and the restoration of the prairie biodiversity with perennial grasses and forbs on fallow lands. This change of attitude from an extractive land ethic to a sustainable land ethic may take generations to reshape the Americana of the past into a vision for our future.

© Joseph Emmanuel Ingoldsby, 2010

www.josephingoldsby.com

www.landscapemosaics.com

Vanishing Landscapes and Endangered Species, The Science Exhibition: Curation & Design, Museum Press, UK, 2010.