17 States Sue to Stop Trump Admin Attack on Endangered Species Act
The administration's changes would remove the blanket rule giving threatened species the same protections as endangered species, allow regulators to calculate the economic cost of protecting any given species and make it harder to protect species from the impacts of the climate crisis. They were announced months after a major UN biodiversity report warned that one million species could go extinct because of human activity.
#BREAKING— Democratic AGs (@DemocraticAGs) September 25, 2019
Democratic AGs across the country just took action to save the Endangered Species Act!
So far, Dem AGs have taken more than 250 actions to combat the ongoing climate crisis and stop the Trump admin's dangerous rollbacks in environmental policy! pic.twitter.com/haNg8INfQV
"As we face a climate emergency and global extinction crisis threatening more than a million species, the Trump Administration is gutting Endangered Species Act protections to pave the way for oil and gas developments," Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement reported by The Washington Post. "We are suing to defend federal law and protect our imperiled wildlife and environment."
Massachusetts was one of the states that led the suit filed Wednesday, along with Maryland and California. They were joined by Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington state, along with Washington, DC and New York City.
"We don't challenge these actions because we want to pick a fight," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a press conference announcing the suit. "We challenge these actions because it is necessary. We're coming out swinging to defend this consequential law. Humankind, and the species with whom we share this planet, depend on it."
In suing, the states are fulfilling a promise made in August, when the changes were first announced, according to The Washington Post. Their action follows on a similar lawsuit brought by environmental groups last month.
The Department of the Interior (DOI), for its part, defended the changes.
"These are long overdue and necessary regulatory changes that will recover more imperiled species facing extinction than previously accomplished over the span of this law," DOI spokesman Nick Goodwin said in a statement reported by HuffPost. "We will see them in court, and we will be steadfast in our implementation of this important act to improve conservation efforts across the country."
Privately, however, senior DOI officials have spoken distastefully of the entire 1973 law, calling it a "sword to tear down the American economy," HuffPost reported.
The states' suit came a day before the changes are scheduled to start taking effect, USA Today reported.
Since it was passed, the Endangered Species Act has saved 99 percent of the plants and animals under its protection from extinction. It has been linked to the recovery of iconic species like the bald eagle and gray wolf, and currently protects more than 1,600 species.
"As we face the unprecedented threat of a climate emergency, now is the time to strengthen our planet's biodiversity, not to destroy it," Becerra said in a statement reported by USA Today. "The only thing we want to see extinct are the beastly policies of the Trump administration putting our ecosystems in critical danger."
By Elliot Douglas
In early October, Britain's Prince William teamed up with conservationist David Attenborough to launch the Earthshot Prize, a new award for environmentalist innovation. The Earthshot brands itself the "most prestigious global environment prize in history."
The world-famous wildlife broadcaster and his royal sidekick appear to have played an active role in the prize's inception, and media coverage has focused largely on them as the faces of the campaign.
“Rather than a Moonshot 🌕, we need Earthshots 🌍 for this decade.” Watch Prince William’s @Tedtalks talk in full:… https://t.co/m5NCj6TQzH— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge)1602408749.0
But the pair are only the frontmen of a much larger movement which has been in development for several years. In addition to a panel of experts who will decide on the winners, the prize's formation took advice from the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace and the Jack Ma Foundation.
With more and more global attention on the climate crisis, celebrity endorsement of environmental causes has become more common. But why do environmental causes recruit famous faces for their campaigns? And what difference can it make?
'Count Me In'
"We need celebrities to reach those people who we cannot reach ourselves," says Sarah Marchildon from the United Nations Climate Change secretariat (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany.
Marchildon is a proponent of the use of celebrities to raise awareness of environmental causes. In addition to promoting a selection of climate ambassadors who represent the UN on sustainability issues, Marchildon's team has produced videos with well-known narrators from the entertainment world: among them, Morgan Freeman and Mark Ruffalo.
"We choose celebrities who have a lifestyle where they are already talking about these issues," Marchildon explains.
"Sometimes they reach out to us themselves, as David Attenborough did recently. And then they can promote the videos on their own social channels which reach more people than we do — for example, if they have 20 million followers and we have 750,000."
Environmental groups focused on their own domestic markets are also taking this approach. One Germany-based organization that uses celebrities in campaigns is the German Zero NGO. Set up in 2019, it advocates for a climate-neutral Germany by 2035.
German Zero produced a video in March 2020 introducing the campaign with "66 celebrities" that supported the campaign, among them Deutschland 83 actor Jonas Nay and former professional footballer Andre Schürrle. They solicit support as well as financial contributions from viewers.
"Count me in," they say, pointing toward the camera. "You too?"
"We are incredibly grateful for the VIPs in our videos," says German Zero spokeswoman Eva-Maria McCormack.
Assessing Success Is Complex
But quantifying the effectiveness of celebrity endorsement of campaigns is not a straightforward process.
"In order to measure effectiveness, first of all you need to define what is meant by success," says Alegria Olmedo, a researcher at the Zoology Department at the University of Oxford.
Olmedo is the author of a study looking at a range of campaigns concerning pangolin consumption, fronted by local and Western celebrities, in Vietnam and China. But she says her biggest stumbling block was knowing how to measure a campaign's success.
"You need a clear theory of change," explains Olmedo. "Have the celebrities actually helped in achieving the campaign's goals? And how do you quantify these goals? Maybe it is increased donations or higher engagement with a cause."
A popular campaign in China in recent years saw famous chefs Zhao Danian and Shu Yi pledge to abstain from cooking endangered wildlife. While the pledge achieved widespread recognition, both Olmedo and Marchildon say it's difficult to know whether it made any difference to people's actions.
"In life we see a thousand messages every day, and it is very hard to pinpoint whether one campaign has actually made a difference in people's behavior," she explains.
Awareness Is Not Enough
Many campaigns that feature celebrities focus on raising awareness rather than on concrete action — which, for researcher Olmedo, raises a further problem in identifying effectiveness.
"Reach should never be a success outcome," she says. "Many campaigns say they reached a certain number of people on social media. But there has been a lot of research that shows that simply giving people information does not mean they are actually going to remember it or act upon it."
But anecdotal evidence from campaigns may suggest reach can make an active difference.
"Our VIP video is by far the most watched on our social media channels," McCormack from German Zero says. "People respond to it very directly. A lot of volunteers of all ages heard about us through that video."
However, some marketing studies have shown that celebrity endorsement of a cause or product can distract from the issue itself, as people only remember the person, not the content of what they were saying.
Choosing the Right Celebrity
Celebrity choice is also very important. Campaigns that use famous faces are often aiming to appeal to members of the public who do not necessarily follow green issues.
For certain campaigns with clear target audiences, choosing a climate scientist or well-known environmentalist rather than a celebrity could be more appealing — Attenborough is a classic example. For others, images and videos involving cute animals may be more likely to get a message heard than attaching a famous face.
"We choose celebrities who have a lifestyle where they are already talking about these issues," says Marchildon from the UN. "You need figures with credibility."
McCormack cites the example of Katharine Hayhoe, an environmental scientist who is also an evangelical Christian. In the southern United States, Hayhoe has become a celebrity in her own right, appealing to an audience that might not normally be interested in the messages of climate scientists.
But as soon as you get a celebrity involved, campaigns also put themselves at risk of the whims of that celebrity. Prince William and younger members of the royal family have come under fire in recent years for alleged hypocrisy for their backing of environmental campaigns while simultaneously using private jets to fly around the world.
But Does It Really Work?
While environmental campaigns hope that endorsement from well-known figures can boost a campaign, there is little research to back this up.
"The biggest finding [from my study] was that we were unable to produce any evidence that shows that celebrity endorsement of environmental causes makes any difference," says Olmedo.
This will come as a blow to many campaigns that have invested time and effort into relationships with celebrity ambassadors. But for many, the personal message that many celebrities offer in videos like that produced by German Zero and campaigns like the Earthshot Prize are what counts.
The research may not prove this conclusively — but if the public believes a person they respect deeply personally cares about an important issue, they are perhaps more likely to care too.
"I personally believe in the power this can have," says Marchildon. "And if having a celebrity involved can get a single 16-year-old future leader thinking about environmentalist issues — that is enough."
Reposted with permission from DW.
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By Brett Wilkins
With President Donald Trump's re-election very much in doubt, his administration is rushing to ram through regulatory rollbacks that could adversely affect millions of Americans, the environment, and the ability of Joe Biden—should he win—to pursue his agenda or even undo the damage done over the past four years.
<div id="04704" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="89d490c741c2b7d2f95200298145c69b"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1317147432002703361" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">JUST POSTED: Facing the prospect that President Trump could lose his re-election bid, his cabinet is scrambling to… https://t.co/hy6L5aOtdv</div> — Eric Lipton (@Eric Lipton)<a href="https://twitter.com/EricLiptonNYT/statuses/1317147432002703361">1602867393.0</a></blockquote></div>
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<div id="2e10f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f42c16794ddc25dcf8bf54a443854416"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1212091176091869184" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">EPA’s scientific advisers warn its regulatory rollbacks clash with established science https://t.co/RBdUsNvNEy</div> — Carl Zimmer (@Carl Zimmer)<a href="https://twitter.com/carlzimmer/statuses/1212091176091869184">1577820030.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Alarmed by the administration's rushed rate of regulatory rollbacks, a group of over 15 Democratic senators earlier this month sent a letter to Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia warning of "profound economic implications" for some 143 million U.S. workers that would result from curtailing public comment periods for the <a href="https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/flsa/2020-independent-contractor-nprm" target="_blank">proposed rule change</a> regarding independent contractors.</p><p>"Workers across the country deserve a chance to fully examine and properly respond to these potentially radical changes, and a 30-day comment period is not nearly enough," the letter states. </p>
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