Sri Lanka Is First Country in the World to Apologize for Its Role in Illegal Ivory Trade
“We have to apologize,” the Venerable Omalpe Sobitha Thero, the Buddhist priest who led the service, told National Geographic. “Those elephants were victimized by the cruelty of certain people. But all of human society is responsible. We destroyed those innocent lives to take those tusks. We have to ask for pardon from them.”
Sri Lanka will destroy its ivory stockpile—and hold a religious ceremony to apologize to the elephants: https://t.co/sKZojR1Sld— National Geographic (@National Geographic)1453749666.0
The ivory, comprised of 359 tusks and weighing 1.5 tons, is the country's entire stockpile. Worth an estimated $3 million, the tusks were seized by customs authorities in May 2012 en route from Kenya to Dubai. However, DNA testing revealed that the tusks came from Tanzania.
The tusks were originally going to be donated to the Sri Dalada Maligawa Buddhist Temple, but the government changed its plans amid public outcry. According to National Geographic, critics of the plan feared the tusks would re-enter the black market and that by handing them over to a third party, the government would violate the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the body that regulates the global wildlife trade.
DR Congo, Malaysia and Sri Lanka announced upcoming & planned destruction of confiscated illegal #ivory @CITES #SC66 https://t.co/8nUabWbzns— CITES (@CITES)1452701408.0
Sri Lanka now joins Gabon, the Philippines, the U.S., China, France, Chad, Belgium, Hong Kong, Kenya, Ethiopia, the United Arab Emirates, Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Thailand, who have all destroyed stockpiles of ivory in the last four years.
The ceremony included two minutes of silence, followed by words from Minister of Sustainable Development and Wildlife Gamini Jayawickremea Perera, Minister of Finance Ravi Karunanayake and CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon.
At today's ceremony, Scanlon said:
I would like to express my most sincere thanks to H.E. President Maithripala Sirisena for inviting me to witness the destruction of 359 pieces of confiscated African elephant ivory weighing 1,529 kilograms here in Colombo today.
Over the past 24 months we have seen countries within Africa, East and South East Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America destroy stockpiles of illegally traded elephant ivory that has been seized and confiscated.
Today’s event is the first destruction of confiscated ivory in South Asia and it is the first time that such an event has included a religious ceremony to honor the elephants that were killed, which makes it a truly unique and remarkable event.
The Venerable Omalpe Sobitha Thero performed a transfer of merits, "a Buddhist ritual often done for departed relatives to honor them and help them reach a better place in their next life," National Geographic explained.
“Buddhism and other religions don’t tolerate killing and cruelty to elephants,” Minister Perera said. “We believe in rebirth, even of elephants or household pets. It’s traditional to conduct religious rights for dead humans as well as animals."
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By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
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By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.
We Need More Than Listening<p>By now we have all become sadly accustomed to the current administration sidelining scientists, most prominently Dr. Anthony Fauci, because the facts they provide do not fit with the political rhetoric of the moment.</p><p>I have <a href="https://www.csldf.org/2019/08/22/csldf-helps-climate-scientist-maria-caffrey-fight-for-scientific-integrity/" target="_blank">my own history</a> of filing a scientific integrity complaint with the National Park Service (which falls under the Department of the Interior) after senior ranking employees attempted to censor one of my scientific reports. I know all too well the damage and pain that these actions cause, not just for the individual scientist, but also because these <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/attacks-on-science" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">attacks on science</a> over the last few years have undermined sound, evidence-based decision making.</p><p>President-elect Biden has repeatedly said that he will <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/521638-trump-biden-will-listen-to-the-scientists-if-elected" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">listen to the scientists</a>. While this is certainly a welcome change, listening can only take us so far. This past week Lauren Kurtz from the <a href="https://www.csldf.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Climate Science Legal Defense Fund</a> and my colleague <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/about/people/gretchen-goldman" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gretchen Goldman</a> published <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ten-steps-that-can-restore-scientific-integrity-in-government/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an article</a> listing 10 actions the new administration should implement to show their commitment to strengthening government science:</p><ol><li>Clearly prohibit political interference and censorship.</li><li>Protect scientists' communication rights.</li><li>Acknowledge that attempts to violate scientific integrity, even if ultimately not fruitful, are still violations.</li><li>Protect federal scientists' right to provide information to Congress and other lawmakers.</li><li>Commit to incorporating the best science as part of agency decisions.</li><li>Elevate agency scientific integrity policies to have the full force of law.</li><li>Publicly release anonymized information about scientific integrity complaints and their resolutions at every agency.</li><li>Institute an intra-agency workforce, potentially under the White House <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/strengthening-science-and-si-at-ostp.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Office of Science and Technology Policy</a>, to coordinate scientific integrity efforts across agencies, foster discussion of policy improvements, and standardize criteria for policies across agencies.</li><li>Strengthen whistleblower protections.</li><li>Ensure that policies cover all actors who will be dealing with science.</li></ol>
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