Caribou Science Denial Cripples Conservation Efforts
To its credit, the Forest Products Association of Canada recognizes climate change is a serious threat to forests and habitat, and has vowed the sector it represents "is doing its part to fight climate change through work in our forests, at our mills and through the products we make."
But it appears the association has an ulterior motive. Its climate commitments are spelled out on a website page that focuses on the role of climate change in caribou population declines, and argues a federal strategy to protect at-risk caribou, in part through habitat management, "won't work and will hurt local economies."
There's no climate science denial, but there is caribou science denial. To downplay the urgent need to protect caribou and manage habitat, and to diminish their own role in boreal caribou declines, forest industry associations are using tactics the fossil fuel industry uses to sow doubt and confusion about scientific evidence.
These "strategies of manufactured uncertainty" have "successfully delayed efforts to effectively address the decline of boreal caribou, which is protected under federal, provincial and territorial legislation, and inhibited meaningful dialogue about socially acceptable conservation solutions," according to a new report in the June issue of Wildlife Society Bulletin, From Climate to Caribou: How Manufactured Uncertainty is Impacting Wildlife Management.
The report, by researchers from Ontario Nature and the Universities of Guelph and Toronto, further states that while the fossil fuel sector is the most prominent purveyor of science denial—with five companies and organizations alone spending US$115 million a year "to avoid new climate policy and regulation"—similar tactics have been used in debates over regulating lead paint, tobacco, DDT, acid rain and chlorofluorocarbons. All employ a "multi-pronged strategy of denial": deny the problem exists, deny its key causes and claim that resolving the problem is too costly.
The strategy also includes vilification of and personal attacks against those who advocate for change. Some have cast efforts to improve caribou habitat policy as "eco-terrorism" and "environmental extremism."
Focusing on Ontario, the researchers show the strategy has been employed in the conflict between industrial logging and boreal caribou conservation. Boreal caribou are listed as "threatened" and are protected under federal species at risk legislation. "Yet, as scientific understanding of the decline of boreal caribou populations has become clearer, and agreement among scientists and governments about habitat management requirements has increased, campaigns of denial have intensified in the public sphere," the report says.
The Ontario Forest Industries Association and others deny boreal caribou are at risk, despite numerous studies showing they are, and claim that "without an adequate understanding how woodland caribou herds use the landscape—let alone a firm grasp of the differences between ecotypes of the subspecies—it is not possible to develop science-based policy."
The report quotes forestry interests that claim industrial logging does not harm caribou and, in fact, may help them, despite contrary evidence from numerous peer-reviewed studies.
A number of organizations, politicians and media outlets have also argued protecting caribou will kill jobs and wreak economic havoc. However, research shows that other factors, such as "structural changes in the demand for forest products, high labour and energy costs, and decline of real net investment in the sector" have caused recent forest industry downturns. Ultimately, if economic growth must come at the cost of boreal caribou survival, it isn't sustainable.
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, which assesses species and makes recommendations about their listing under the Species at Risk Act, has examined the available evidence and concluded 81 percent of boreal caribou herds are in decline and all woodland caribou ecotypes—boreal, mountain and migratory—are diminishing in Canada. A main cause for boreal caribou decline is habitat degradation, mostly from industrial activity, and consequent changes in predator-prey dynamics.
Caribou play an important role in forest ecosystems. With all we know about the animals and how to protect them, we must resist industry's false narrative. As the report concludes, "the debate should now focus on goal-setting and implementation of caribou conservation strategies, including range plans and protection of critical habitat, which have the highest likelihood of achieving long-term caribou persistence while minimizing effects to jobs in the sector."
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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