Ecuadorians have voted to halt oil drilling in an Amazonian national park – GOOD NEWS!

The referendum on Yasuni reserve will benefit a huge range of species, along with several groups of uncontacted tribes of indigenous people. The vote was not close, with 90% of votes counted protection won by around 20%. It will also keep around 726 million barrels of oil in the ground. Given that one barrel is 158 litres, that is 114 billion liters of oil, and as each one emits at least 3 kg of carbon dioxide, this is going to save 350 billion kg of carbon dioxide released into the air. This is a huge win for the environment, but also for the wildlife of the Yasuni reserve.

The worlds top sovereign fund is cutting ties with a dam which will likely lead to the extinction of the Tapanuli Orangutan

In most countries, if a dam was to cause so much destruction to the last habitat of a species, the dam would likely not get permission to be built.

It is true that the dam will only take about 20% of the land in question, directly. It will also split the population in half.

It is not surprising that the Norwegian sovereign fund has pulled out of this dam

Given that only around 800 Tapanuli Orangutans survive in the wild, the loss of just a handful is bad. A loss of 20% of the remaining population could quite rapidly push the population towards extinction, particularly as it will split the few remaining Orangutans into separate populations which cannot interbreed.

Norway has a huge sovereign fund, into which it pours the countries earnings from fossil fuel extraction. Perhaps recognizing that this has a shelf life which is not far from ending, Norway has made sure that for the most part its sovereign fund is good for the natural world (alongside giving good returns)

Generally rules on financing should have ruled this project out in the past, so it is good that this decision has been eventually made.

Will the dam still get built? We will have to wait and see.

Lab grown milk could arrive in shops by 2024 – without the cows or carbon

Milk is an important part of the diet of many people in the west, alongside other dairy products. It has, in recent years been one of the problems: while many people have cut down on eating beef, far fewer has cut down on dairy – but now, if you do not eat beef, you can stop supporting dairy farmers all together.

This is not to say that dairy farmers are bad. Governments need to create different careers and paths for these people to take out of their current work.

Continue reading “Lab grown milk could arrive in shops by 2024 – without the cows or carbon”

Colorado river lost 10 trillion gallons of water since 2000

Climate change effects are not restricted to the third world (though very often the impact is felt more harshly here).

In the USA the volume of water in the Colorado river has fallen by the volume of lake Mead in 23 years – this is the equivalent of 15 billion Olympic sized swimming pools. More than 40 million people rely on this river for their water – along with millions of acres of farm land.

Despite the drought that has hit the area, scientists have calculated that the water loss would not have had anywhere near the effect without the human caused climate change.

This may simply be early signs of things to come in the USA

Amazon deforestation has fallen over 60% since last July

Great progress is being made in slowing rainforest destruction in Brazil with great falls in the last year. It is true that this rate needs to fall to zero in the near future, but great progress is being.

A lot of this progress is as a result of the end of the Bolsonaro regime, and could swing back should a similar person come to power.

However, what is clear is that if the Amazon reaches a tipping point and starts to dry out, it will rapidly die, and at this point there is unlikely to be enough rain for the regions croplands to remain (the crops will no longer grow as a result of the lack of rain).

It is essential that the rest of the world invests heavily in this region, in order to give a clear alternative to soy and cattle rearing in order to earn a living.

A flurry of wolves born in California: are they making a comeback?

Grey wolves from Oregon now appear to be thriving in California (where they disappeared from about 100 years ago).

Wolves and cubs in California

Wolves have never been reintroduced to California, instead they were returned to Yellowstone, re-entered Oregan back in 1999, and then entered California in 2008.

Short of a sudden sustained assault on their numbers, they are back in California and are likely to multiply over the next few decades to take back up their position as apex predators. This should not be feared in any way, with sensible management, it could end up benefiting California, with healthier ecosystems, less car crashes caused by wildlife amongst many other benefits.

Lauren Boebert in the USA has spouted some fear mongering about wolves, and I thought it worth looking at this issue

It is true, Wolves are hunters. More than that, they are incredibly successful hunters. They work as a team, have incredible endurance and a very high level of intelligence. This is perhaps why in the last few centuries their numbers have been greatly depleted.

In places like western Europe and the USA, they were close to extinction as a whole and had become locally extinct in much of their range. So is this fear mongering reasonable? Of course not.

Lauren Boebert spouts rubbish about wild wolves and how dangerous they are

Here she is talking about wolves in Colorado. She quoted figures of 500 attacks from 2002- the present, and stated that 30 people died in this time – scary numbers indeed. However, she was instantly fact-checked – those were the number of attacks around the world not just in the USA, only 1 death occurred there.

Of course, every death is sad, but to put it in perspective, each year 175-200 people die as a result of their car colliding with a deer. So over the same period, there were 3500-4000 car deaths as a result of deer – and wolf presence greatly reduces this, both by reducing the deer numbers, and creating a climate of fear, which makes deer stay away from open spaces, and so cross roads far less often.

We are all encouraged to cut our carbon footprint – so is ecotourism out?

There is a great deal of time in the media given over to cutting our carbon footprint. To be clear, this is essential – we need to cut our carbon footprint as much as we possibly can.

My family have recently bought an electric car (second hand) and this has probably reduced our emissions by 2.5 tonnes a year directly (let alone indirectly, which is often far higher – think of the carbon footprint of extracting refining and transporting the petrol from the earth to your car – usually easily doubling the carbon emissions coming out of the tail pipe).

While they cause much pollution, air travel allows support of wilderness like no time before, we must not lose it.

We are currently in talks of having a heat pump installed (I hope that this goes well) and perhaps having the same people install our solar panels and thermal solar panels (those who have been reading this blog for a long time will remember me getting them a long time ago, it has been bizarrely hard to find someone to install at a sensible price).

These moves probably combine to reduce our housing emissions to near zero – we have carbon neutral electricity as well a to reduce our gas use to zero.

So why do I run a website that is intended to simplify wild travel? It is simple! No one has yet found a model which pays locals for the wildlife that lives on the doorstep. Tourism is good at doing this. Now it is true that most wildlife is a significant distance away, which means that air travel is required. However, if as a country, we reduce our housing carbon footprint by 5+ tonnes each, per year (on average the emissions per person is around 5 tonnes per year, so for a family of 4 this is a reduction of about 25%) then a flight, preferably in cattle class and on a modern efficient plane, is not going to greatly increase our carbon footprint.

More important, if everyone in the west stops ecotourism trips, what benefit is there for locals in western Africa to retain their rainforest? A small number of visitors is likely to greatly increase the standard of living of remote communities, as well as giving incentive for thousands of square miles of rainforest to remain standing.

Carbon offset schemes are also a good idea, though much care must be taken in picking what to support (and often doing it directly is better). As this website grows, I hope to set up a scheme that does it properly. You should be looking for projects which will either reduce emissions (new green electricity generation, reforestation- with native crops, that will be left standing, and many more)

The fact of the matter is, that if all of us who are lucky enough to live in the west stop engaging in eco-travel, this removes the incentive for countries around the world to retain their wilderness and wildlife. Worse, ecotourism can give livelihoods in wild places all over the country which if removed, would require entire ecosystems to be cleared. We must be careful, and keep our carbon footprint for this travel low, but feeling smug about not flying will not keep rainforests standing, coral reefs intact, mangroves where they are and many many more

Positive news from Borneo – reconnecting wilderness

One of the problems with cutting down rainforest, it often what is left is so fragmented that it is useless for conservation. Remaining blocks of forest must allow a viable population of the rarest creatures, in order for the animals not to need to travel outside protected areas.

In Borneo, like in Sumatra, there has been a rapid loss of rainforest over the last few decades. Often it is claimed that enough is left behind in order to conserve the animals that live there.

Could this provide a way for wildlife and humans to thrive in close proximity?

In Borneo, while there is still a large quantity of wilderness, this is increasingly fragmented.

Continue reading “Positive news from Borneo – reconnecting wilderness”

Solitary male Orangutans peek on locals

Generally great apes are animals that live in community. Indeed, one of the reasons that great apes developed such large brains is as a result of their need in social situations. Great apes (along with lesser monkeys, dolphins, bears and wolves, with a few more) require a large brain to remember things about the many individuals that they socialize with, and how each has behaved, who is nice.

By following locals, they can work out what is eaten locally that may be very different from elsewhere
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