How to Solve the Global Extinction Crisis for Just $100 Billion

By Andrea Germanos, Staff Writer, Common Dreams

As the United Nations unveiled on Jan. 13 a draft proposal to address threats to biodiversity, a new report outlined a strategy for a U.S.-focused “visionary action to save life on Earth.”

The roadmap (pdf) was released Monday by the Center for Biological Diversity. It lays out specific steps for the United States to help end the global extinction crisis—at a cost of a relatively measly $100 billion, a fraction of what Congress recently allocated for defense spending.

From the ongoing “insect apocalypse” and the deterioration of  “ecosystems on which we and all other species depend” to the hurtling of roughly one million plant and animal species to the brink of extinction, the need for swift and far-reaching action is clear. “The presence of wildlife brings joy and enriches us all—and each extinction makes our home a lonelier and colder place for us and future generations,” the report states.

The weight of the problem is reflected in the report’s title: Saving Life on Earth (pdf).

Related: Reducing Carbon Emissions: Duke professor recommends strategy to break political stalemate on climate change

“Humans have never witnessed the profound level of wildlife losses unfolding in front of us right now,” said Tierra Curry, a scientist at the Center.

While the problem is global in scope, the report calls on the U.S. to be a leader in addressing the issue. It lists five broad policy changes to kickstart that effort:

  • Restore American Leadership at Global Level on Fighting the Extinction Crisis.
  • Protect Key Habitats by Creating 500 New National Parks, Wildlife Refuges and Marine Sanctuaries.
  • Restore the full power of the Endangered Species Act and Rebuild Wildlife Populations.
  • Establish Strict “No-Discharge” Pollution Limits That Are Protective of Wildlife.
  • Stem the Tide of Invasive Species.
this picture of a koala illustrates species threatened by the global extinction crisis

Australia’s bushfires are contributing to the global extinction crisis. (Photo by James Frid from Pexels)

Woven into those categories, which include congressional actions like expanding “the boundaries of most national parks so that they are ecologically viable and also resilient to threats like climate change,” are 10 actions the president should take on their own:

  1. Declare the global extinction crisis to be a national emergency.
  2. Establish 500 new national parks, wildlife refuges, and marine sanctuaries.
  3. Strengthen public-land management to prioritize biodiversity and maintain abundant wildlife.
  4. Protect all critically imperiled wildlife and plants that are not yet on the endangered species list.
  5. Implement an ecosystem-approach to recovery that protects habitat, fosters ecological processes, and addresses climate change.
  6. Require all federal agencies to develop proactive conservation plans for endangered species and to identify and protect critical habitat on their properties.
  7. Require the Environmental Protection Agency to adopt the precautionary principle when it regulates chemicals and pesticides.
  8. Ban the discharge of chemicals, pesticides, and pollutants into freshwater and marine ecosystems, and impose 100% recycling standards for all plastic products while we transition away from oil-based plastics.
  9. Require all federal agencies to use their full authorities to combat the spread of invasive species.
  10. Designate and protect wildlife corridors, including the construction of 1,000 new wildlife overpasses and underpasses.

Related: The pivotal role of youth fighting climate change

Despite the wide scope of the global extinction crisis problem, all is not bleak. “It is not too late to save the world’s natural heritage from annihilation,” the report states. The publication points to bright spots, such as dam removals that have helped restore salmon and other migratory fish and the rebounding of the bald eagle in the lower 48 states after the population was decimated by the use of DDT.

The price tag for the ambitious roadmap? $100 billion—just a fraction of the $738 billion military spending bill that a bipartisan Congress passed last month.

The report breaks down how the $100 billion should be allocated:

  • $20 billion to recover endangered species
  • $20 billion to create 500 new national parks, wildlife refuges, and national marine sanctuaries
  • $10 billion in assistance to the state Fish and Wildlife agencies to conserve declining wildlife
  • $10 billion for global coral restoration
  • $10 billion for neotropical migratory birds in the Western Hemisphere
  • $10 billion to save international biodiversity hotspots
  • $10 billion to combat illegal wildlife trafficking
  • $10 billion to address the spread of invasive species around the world.

“We are the first human generations to fully understand the consequences of mass extinction,” the report states. “The question now is simply, will we act to stop it?”

This story was edited slightly from the original article published on the Common Dreams website. The article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. 


The Pivotal Role of Youth Fighting Climate Change

By Josie Balzac-Arroyo

Climate change, a complex wicked problem, is the biggest threat of our time. Climate change endangers the effective enjoyment of our human rights. We have been warned by prominent scientists that we are reaching the tipping point of irreversible damage. The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warned that there are only 12 years left before we face the catastrophic impacts of 2°C in global temperatures.

Although the Paris Agreement signified a global consensus that climate change is an urgent threat that needs ambitious efforts to solve, politicians and government agencies continue to ignore the urgency of the climate crisis and lack the political will to implement appropriate policy changes to prevent the burning of fossil fuels. The Climate Action Tracker demonstrates that the vast majority of countries are not meeting their goals and have established “insufficient” targets, especially the U.S., which is categorized as “critically insufficient”. The irony is that this massive burning of fossil fuels is absolutely legal and yet causes immeasurable social and environmental injustice to our future generations.

Related: This young bioplastics entrepreneur is helping save the world from plastic waste.

When a fundamental injustice is felt deeply, social movements emerge to challenge oppressive systems and shift societal norms, values, and laws. History shows us that law and justice are not always aligned and what is once legal is not necessarily ethical. Today, we are experiencing a youth-led climate movement, that is based on the moral duty to rise up in the name of climate justice. The youth climate movement includes lawsuits, lobbying politicians, and activism. Impacted by how unjust laws perpetuate the injustices of climate change, Generation Z and Millennials are taking matters into their own hands to shift the power back to the people and propel social innovation to solve these systemic issues and ultimately achieve meaningful social change.

this photo depicts Greta Thunberg, the face of the global youth movement fighting climate change

Greta Thunberg, a teenager from Sweden, has emerged as a leader of global youth fighting climate change.

In the U.S., just one of many climate lawsuits being launched against governments around the world, is a case where twenty-one youth have brought forth the largest constitutional climate class action lawsuit against the U.S. government in Juliana v. U.S. The youth through the help of Our Children’s Trust and Earth Guardians are seeking to secure the legal right to a safe climate and healthy atmosphere for all present and future generations. The youth’s complaint is founded on the assertion that the U.S. government violated the youth’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, by failing to protect the public trust resources through the affirmative actions that cause climate change. Youth have filed similar lawsuits throughout the individual states, and most recently in Canada. One of the plaintiffs is from Florida, Levi, who is 12 years old. You can follow these lawsuits on

Related: Duke University student turns trash into stunning sustainable art.

In terms of lobbying efforts, the Sunrise Movement is building an army of young people to make climate change a priority across America, end the influence of fossil fuel money, and ultimately elect leaders who stand up for the health and wellbeing of all people. They’re focused on advocating for strong climate policies, holding politicians from both the left and the right accountable, and participating in nonviolent activism, such as the Climate Strike. Ahead of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, on September 20, 2019, millions of young people participated in the largest worldwide day of action for climate justice from Australia to California in Fridays for Future Climate Strike, created by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate activist nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. This massive global strike happened again ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference on Friday, December 6, 2019. In Orlando, the protest took place in front of Orlando City Hall and was hosted by a local environmental organization and a Rollins College community partner, Ideas for Us.

this photo shows Jane Fonda joining the youth fighting global change

With Fire Drill Fridays, activist/actress Jane Fonda has inspired older people to join the global movement of youth fighting climate change.

Through the Rollins mission we’re educating students for global citizenship and responsible leadership. All of you, our future generations, have the power to use your knowledge and skills to make a difference in the world and it all starts with a single step. Whether it be joining organizations tackling climate change, participating in a climate march, voting in your local and federal elections, applying pressure through media and radio outlets, or creating your own social enterprise or advocacy initiative, use your voices collectively to “be the change, you wish to see in the world.”

Josie Balzac-Arroyo is an assistant professor of social entrepreneurship at Sullivan Foundation partner school Rollins College. This article originally appeared on The Sandspur and was reposted with the author’s permission.

Related: Green is the new black at Sullivan Foundation partner school Rollins College

Saint Leo University Poll Finds Majority Favor Teaching Climate Change in Schools

A majority of the people responding to a survey by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute believe climate change should be taught as an accepted scientific theory in the public schools.

The survey was conducted both nationally and within Florida. In both cases, more than six in 10 respondents agreed strongly or agreed somewhat that climate change is a topic that should be taught in public primary and secondary schools.

The survey was conducted online from February 16 through February 25, 2019. The national sample consisted of 1,000 respondents, and the resulting margin of error for the responses is plus or minus 3.0 percentage points. The same questions were asked of 500 respondents in Florida, which is home to both Saint Leo University, a Sullivan Foundation partner school, and its nonpartisan Saint Leo University Polling Institute. With the Florida results, the margin of error for respondents is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Questions on public education and climate change were added this year to a battery of questions that the Saint Leo University Polling Institute has been posing each year since 2015.

Photo by Markus Spiske

The new questions were a logical outgrowth of evidence that the general public is wondering about the implications of climate change. Since 2015, every year more than 70 percent of respondents in the national poll have indicated they are very concerned or somewhat concerned about global climate change. In Florida, responses of those very concerned and somewhat concerned have been at least 67 percent since 2015.

Even when results vary by a few percentage points from one year to the next on a question like this, the long-term pattern tells the tale, said Frank Orlando, director of the Saint Leo University Polling Institute and a political scientist who teaches at the university. In 2019, 35.8 percent of U.S. respondents said they were “very concerned” about climate change, and another 35.5 percent said they are “somewhat concerned,” accounting for the sum of 71.3 percent nationally who are concerned about the issue. By contrast, a sum of 25.9 percent nationally said they are either “somewhat unconcerned” (11.6 percent) or “not at all concerned” (14.3 percent).

In Florida, 39.6 percent of the 2019 survey respondents said they are “very concerned” and another 29 percent said they are “somewhat concerned,” amounting to 68.6 percent. Those who said they are “somewhat unconcerned” were 13 percent of those answering, and those who said they are “not at all concerned” accounted for 16 percent of the answers, so those with less or no concern amounted to 29 percent.

As concern has been documented over a period of time, the polling institute decided this year to ask the public whether or not it favors certain actions being tried in various areas in response to climate change. Education of the next generation was one topic.

“Concern about global climate change remains high, so it is logical that a majority of Americans want global climate change to be taught in primary and secondary schools,’’ observed Dr. Leo Ondrovic, a member of the Saint Leo University science faculty. “A strong majority of our respondents support this idea.’’

Nationally, 64.4 percent agree somewhat or agree strongly that climate change should be taught as accepted theory in public primary and secondary schools. In Florida, a combined 65.2 percent agreed strongly or somewhat. Those who disagree somewhat or who disagree strongly accounted for 25.5 percent of the national respondents and 25.4 percent of Florida respondents.

People were asked to consider whether local regions might equip themselves to mitigate climate change. Some areas—such as Tampa Bay, South Florida, Boston, Virginia, and communities in the West—have publicly announced and launched coalitions or other entities to serve their own areas.

“Since little has been done on the national level, and with various communities taking the initiative to address the issue at a local level, we wanted to see if this idea is seen as a priority among the public,” Ondrovic said. In the national survey, nearly 58 percent said a local initiative seems a worthy idea and in peninsular Florida more than 65 percent thought so. People were not necessarily aware whether their local areas have a department or some kind of joint plan to address climate problems.

The survey also found in both the national and Florida samples that one-quarter of respondents say that individuals are capable of preventing causes of global warming through personal choices and actions. Follow-up questions revealed the most common choice (from a long list) made to help prevent carbon pollution was the purchase of higher efficiency appliances.

Press releases with more detail are available at Findings for each survey question on the topic have been compiled and posted under Poll Reports on the same page. Additional information includes Americans’ views on banning plastic straws and single-use plastic shopping bags.

This story originally appeared on the Saint Leo University website.


Changing the Climate by Leaving “Climate Change” Behind

By Robert Russell Sassor & Beth Strachan

Many movements struggle to let go of the revered stories they use time and again to win supporters, but change often requires a new narrative. In 2012, for example, the US marriage equality movement replaced its long-used “basic human rights” messaging with messaging focused on love and family. Doing so allowed the movement to overcome setbacks and dramatically shift norms, behaviors, and expectations through savvy campaign strategies. Since then, public support for marriage equality has been climbing steadily, from 37 percent in 2009 to 62 percent in 2017. And since the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality, it is now the law of the land.

Changing hearts and minds, building public will, and thereby influencing political will and judicial engagement on any issue requires that advocates first connect with people through language and stories rooted in values we authentically share. Yet by and large, climate change advocacy has continued to focus on the imperative of a stable climate and trends in rising temperatures (often accompanied by ice cap and polar bear imagery). The movement typically relays that we are in crisis mode, and must act immediately to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. But while all these arguments are true, they have largely failed to inspire individual action or widespread change in the United States.

Some leaders and groups are beginning to evolve climate change’s traditional narratives to, for example, encompass health impacts (“climate change is impacting our health”), but new messaging still often hinges on changing people’s attitudes toward climate change itself. It still seeks to build public will in support of the issue as a precursor to driving policy and action to tackle it—and it isn’t working. Surveys show that even though more and more Americans understand climate change is real, is human caused, and directly affects communities, the issue remains a low priority for taking action. More than a decade of investment in advocacy and marketing to raise the alarm on climate change—during both progressive and conservative ascendance—has not yet galvanized political or public will in the United States. In fact, the issue remains a political third rail even for people who believe we need to act now.

It’s worth asking then: Is there a fatal flaw in the discourse around climate change? Is it time to let go of the climate change “sacred cow” and create a narrative centered on common values? We believe the answer to both questions is yes, and a natural place to start is by focusing on the health benefits of clean air, water, and land.

Change Is in the Air

The health impacts of climate change are clear and evident; poor air and water quality, natural disasters, extreme heat, and wildfire make us more vulnerable to illness, disease, and death. In 2009, The Lancet medical journal declared climate change “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century,” and in November, it released a report on how climate change is “shaping the health of nations for centuries to come.” These findings are underscored in a domestic context by the 2018 US National Climate Assessment, which notes the interconnected impacts climate change presents for the US economy, natural resources, and our health. The American Public Health Association is meanwhile prioritizing the issue on behalf of the nation’s public health field, and recently announced the launch of a new Center for Climate, Health and Equity.

Within the health field, the medical literature and galvanizing work of the World Health Organization and others are contributing to a particular emphasis on clean air. At last year’s Global Climate and Health Forum, for example, “air pollution” was the term on everybody’s lips, including Howard Frumkin’s of the the Wellcome Trust, who said: “Five years ago at a meeting on climate and health, we would have heard much less talk about air pollution … Air pollution has emerged as an incredibly powerful issue to advance our discussion of climate change.” He and others have noted that air pollution is salient for policymakers and people, because it is happening now, the pollution is tangible, and its impacts on human health are direct and recognizable.

Air pollution is also salient for health professionals. Independent medical literature underscores the urgency for action, which may be fueling the field’s newfound focus. A 2013 MIT study (using 2005 data) attributed 200,000 premature deaths in the United States per year to poor air quality. Studies are also uncovering other harmful impacts, such as chronic bronchitis and asthma, cardiovascular diseases, systemic inflammation, impaired cognitive development and memory function, and kidney damage, as well as gastrointestinal, liver, lung, and renal cancers. (See a World Health Organization compendium here.) These conditions may also drive absenteeism in schools and workplaces, exacerbate health care needs and costs, and impinge on our well-being and resilience as individuals, communities, and nations. The impacts are far worse for those who live near sources of air pollution, which are disproportionately near communities already facing disparities. Consequently, the World Health Organization is unifying the field—and its policy and behavior change prowess globally and domestically—to tackle the health inequities air pollution poses.

This focus on air quality is one health-focused example that could serve as a compelling impetus for tackling climate change without necessarily referencing “climate” terms. An air quality narrative could, for example, entail calls to action that help end new fossil fuel projects and shift economies away from coal, oil, and natural gas. Domestically, strategies and messaging designed to prompt policies and action for cleaner air could help: safeguard comprehensive regulations in the Clean Air Act and standards for minimizing particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter; commit the nation to 100 percent clean and renewable energy for all; and create opportunity and political capital to advance a new clean power plan, restore emissions standards, and drive other high-impact policies that seem impossible today but could have public will behind them in two years.

Promising Early Evidence

This approach is already showing promise as a mechanism for motivating action in a clean energy context. While clean energy messaging has historically focused on climate change (“the Earth is warming, we need to do something about it, and clean energy can help”), Sierra Club’s US-based Ready for 100 Campaign instead focused on how air pollution from fossil fuels is putting our health at risk, and how clean and renewable energy will improve our health, leave a better world for our children, and save lives.

The campaign drew on a proprietary national survey conducted in 2015, which indicated that Americans’ values for health and quality of life, particularly for future generations, motivate support for clean energy. Respondents generally ranked protecting air and water quality as higher priorities than fighting climate change, and health-based messages about reducing pollution tested best as reasons to support clean energy goals. The Sierra Club research illuminated an opportunity to engage new clean energy champions (beyond those activated in a “climate change” context) through messages linked directly to their values, particularly through values related to their health.

In just two years, the campaign has already inspired 100 cities, along with 10 counties and two states (Hawaii and California) to pledge to shift to 100 percent clean and renewable energy.

Opportunities to Pursue

Given this, is it time for climate change advocates to develop a shared narrative that better taps people’s values and elevates our health, and in a way that will work across fields? How can we more fully connect health to other values, like economic security, economic development, social justice, environment and sustainability, energy independence, jobs creation, and just transitions for those whose livelihoods rely on the fossil fuel industry?

As we work to answer these questions, let us look to how we can promote more-robust collaboration, reduce duplication of effort, and reinforce central concepts; share resources (through pooling funding, resources, and tools), and mobilize and coordinate across fields and movements; and reimagine community engagement by leading with curiosity, and inviting people to talk about these issues in the context of their experiences and those of their loved ones. Together, we can inspire the policies and actions we seek.

If those of us who work to mitigate climate change unite to make health a national priority—bypassing the climate change third rail—it will be an instructive model for broader shifts in narrative and action, and a potentially formidable force for positive change in our communities.

from SSIR Blog

Awesome Ideas for Winter Charity Work

As winter starts to settle in (maybe a little early for some of our tastes), we start thinking about things like hot chocolate and warm fires and nights spent inside with the people we love. It’s an exciting time of year, but it’s also a good time to think about those who may not be as happy this winter.

There are a lot of unique issues that winter brings for those in the changemaking community. From working to get everyone a warm coat to reaching out to those suffering from SAD (it’s a thing, we promise), there are a lot of issues to be addressed during winter. Read on to learn about some ideas for winter charity work.

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