On Dec. 6, President Obama's staff held a hearing on their proposed 5 year oil leasing plan. A plan that would open up drilling in the Arctic. I was there with Cindy Shogan of Alaska Wilderness League, rallying people to urge the President to stop risking the Arctic and the support of young environmental voters.
When the BP Deepwater disaster happened, I saw firsthand the destruction that oil drilling causes on the environment.
Miles of oil-covered coastline destroyed the original beauty of the Gulf coast. Billions of dollars that people depended upon to feed their families were never earned. Oil-covered birds were suffering. Dolphins would swim near our Greenpeace ship under a sheen of oil. Around the Gulf, it was reported that when the dolphins surfaced, they would accidentally breathe in the oil, and you could hear them making a sound like coughing. The Gulf coast, still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, fell further into despair. The people’s livelihoods—from fishing to tourism—were destroyed.
Now President Obama is proposing that we open Alaska for drilling, and in doing so, he is taking two monumental risks.
First, he is risking the fragile, untouched ecosystems that are more vulnerable to an oil spill than those in the Gulf. The Arctic is home to polar bears, bowhead whales, walruses, ice seals and hundreds of species of birds. The Coast Guard calls an oil spill in the Arctic “a nightmare scenario.” The reason that it will be so difficult, if not impossible, to “clean” an Arctic oil spill is because the area is pitch black for half of the year and the water is covered with sheets of floating ice. If BP could only clean about 3 percent of the oil spilled in the Gulf, it seems unlikely that Shell and Obama, in Arctic conditions, could do any better.
The second risk the President is taking is the fact that once again, like with his initial efforts to promote the Keystone Pipeline that would have shipped Tar Sands through the U.S., he is risking the hours, passion and contributions of his supporter base, particularly young voters.
These Arctic lease sales—not to mention previous decisions he has made that enable drilling in the Beaufort Sea—are potentially disastrous. They are disastrous for our environment and for the prospects of young Americans, who vote on the environment, supporting the President come election season.
It’s time to protect the Earth’s final frontier. We need an energy revolution and it needs to start right now. President Obama can help us take a step in the right direction by making sure the five year plan doesn’t include new arctic leases.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.