The Return of a Relative: Tribal Communities in the Northern Great Plains Rally Around Bison Restoration
By Clay Bolt
On Oct. 11 people around the world celebrated the release of four plains bison onto a snow-covered butte in Badlands National Park, South Dakota.
Their large, chocolate brown bodies were in beautiful contrast against the park's snow-covered sagebrush, hills, and canyons. This was the first time that the species had set hoof in this area since 1877. For wildlife fans and the U.S. national mammal it was a homecoming long overdue. For tribal community members who were there to witness this important moment, the significance was immense for much deeper reasons.
▶️ Four bison were released into the territory their ancestors roamed in Badlands National Park, South Dakota, Frid… https://t.co/IwvysPdDQK— The Voice of America (@The Voice of America)1571259600.0
"As a tribe, we and the buffalo are one and the same," said Monica Terkildsen, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and Tribal Community Liaison for World Wildlife Fund's (WWF) Northern Great Plains Program. "The buffalo represent our own healthy return. The buffalo once provided our home, our life ways, our food, and created a diverse, flourishing ecosystem. Today, as our herds are growing, we are beginning to re-center as a people. So bison have a deep, profound meaning to us. They mean economics, they mean health, they mean our spiritual well-being. They are our elders that guide us. They are our relatives."
Prior to European settlement plains bison numbered between 30 million and 60 million and were the widest-ranging large mammal in North America. Bison played an incalculable role in the lives and traditions of Native Americans and many species that live in the plains. By 1889, only 512 plains bison remained after westward expansion and a concerted effort by the US government to eliminate the bison and subdue the tribes that relied so heavily upon them.
Today, WWF is working with tribal partners to restore bison to their rightful place at the heart of their people's culture, economy, and ecology. Our work includes efforts at the Fort Peck and Fort Belknap Reservations in Montana to foster a renewed sense of connection to bison, and increased community support for bison programs and restoration efforts. After the absence of bison for over a century on tribal lands, restoring this relationship is not a simple endeavor. However, with support from tribal leaders, we have begun to identify the values, needs, and aspirations of community members for their tribal bison programs. As the recognized value of bison to the people increases, the constituency that supports bison restoration grows as well.
Only a little more than one-third of the world's 246 longest rivers remain free-flowing, drastically reducing the diverse benefits that healthy rivers provide to people and nature everywhere, according to a new study by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and partners.
A team of researchers from WWF, McGill University, and other institutions studied about 7.5 million miles of rivers worldwide to determine whether they're well connected. They found that only 37 percent are free-flowing — meaning they're largely unaffected by human-made changes to its flow and connectivity. Dams built in the wrong place and climate change are impacting river health worldwide, and the planet's remaining free-flowing rivers are largely restricted to remote regions of the Arctic, the Amazon Basin and the Congo Basin.
Vanishing Free-Flowing Rivers
Long free-flowing rivers are vanishing. Around the world, rivers are becoming increasingly fragmented by dams and other development — such as roads or dikes — endangering freshwater ecosystems and the people and wildlife that rely on them. Free-flowing rivers transport water, nutrients and species that sustain biodiversity and benefit millions of people. To help countries and communities better protect their freshwater resources, WWF and partners came up with a technical definition of a free-flowing river and then created a first-of-its-kind, scientifically backed map — a comprehensive inventory of the world's last free-flowing rivers, rivers with good connectivity and impacted rivers.
1. Mura River — Slovenia
Called the "Amazon of Europe," the Mura River provides critical habitat for endangered and rare species such as otters, Danube salmon and black stork. After urging from WWF and others, in February 2019, the Slovenian government signed an agreement to stop all hydropower plant development that would devastate the Mura.
2. Usumacinta River — Mexico
In June 2018, guided by WWF and partners, Mexico established water reserves across nearly 300 river basins, guaranteeing water supplies for 45 million people for the next 50 years. Ninety-three percent of the water in the Usumacinta — the longest, most biodiverse river in Central America and one of Mexico's — is now federally protected.
3. Bita River - Colombia
The Colombian government named the Bita River basin a Ramsar site — a wetland of international importance — in June 2018, thanks in large part to the work of WWF and partners. Covering 825,000 hectares, it's the largest of the country's 11 Ramsar sites and one of the few in the world to encompass an entire free-flowing river watershed.
4. Paraguay Basin — Brazil
More than 100 dams planned for the Upper Paraguay Basin could hurt water supplies, biodiversity and local communities. After tremendous efforts from a coalition including WWF, Brazil's National Water Agency suspended new dam development there until May 2020. But the suspension only applies to rivers under federal jurisdiction — so just 20 of the 100 dams will be suspended.
5. Luangwa River — Zambia
The Luangwa, which is free but impacted by a dam on a nearby river, is at risk. A proposed dam at Ndevu Gorge threatens this wild waterway, which shelters abundant wildlife and human populations. In Zambia, WWF is advocating on behalf of people and nature, pushing the government to reconsider its energy plans and ensuring that local people maintain their rights to natural resources.
6. Irrawaddy and Salween Rivers — Myanmar
In Myanmar, an in-depth Strategic Environmental Assessment recommended that the main stems of the Irrawaddy and Salween rivers — two of the last long free-flowing rivers in southeast Asia — should remain free of dams. But there is still risk, making alternative energy such as solar and wind power even more important for people, rivers, and the country's economy.
Dams provide safe drinking water and electricity to millions of people. But when built in the wrong place — for instance, a river's main stem — they can impede a river's flow, causing drastic declines in biodiversity and affecting fish migration, agriculture and livelihoods. Today there are more than 60,000 major dams around the world — a number that's increasing to meet demand for hydropower. WWF is helping national governments, industries and developers consider both the long-term impacts on local people and habitats and other potential alternative options for meeting water and energy supply needs, as well as helping them identify the best opportunities for river restoration projects. Solar and wind prices are going down, making them attractive alternatives.
With a growing market for vegan makeup and cruelty-free cosmetics, more and more beauty brands are ditching animal ingredients and animal testing. While many luxe animal-friendly companies have high prices, there are a number of cruelty-free makeup brands producing affordable personal care products as well.
In this article, we'll recommend 11 essential beauty products that have drugstore price tags and cruelty-free certifications. An easy switch to make in your day-to-day makeup and skincare routine is to invest in cruelty-free cosmetics that work to protect the most vulnerable among us — animals.
Our Picks for Best Cruelty-free Makeup Products
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. Learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn a commission.
- Best Foundation: Milani Conceal + Perfect 2-in-1 Liquid Foundation
- Best Concealer: NYX HD Studio Photogenic Concealer
- Best Pressed Powder: IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores Pressed Finishing Powder
- Best Blush: Milani Baked Blush
- Best Highlighter: Pacifica Beauty Ice Baby Hydrating Highlighter
- Best Eyeshadow Palette: e.l.f. Mad for Matte Eyeshadow Palette
- Best Eyeliner: Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eyeliner Pencil
- Best Cruelty-Free Mascara: Essence Cosmetics Lash Princess False Lash Effect Mascara
- Best Vegan Lip Balm: Eco Lips Mongo Kiss
- Best Lipstick: IT Cosmetics Pillow Lips Lipstick
- Best Setting Spray: Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray
What to Know About Cruelty-Free Makeup
While vegan products are great for the environment, they aren't always cruelty-free — nor are cruelty-free products always vegan. "Vegan" means that the product's formula doesn't contain any animal-derived ingredients, while "cruelty-free" means that it was developed without animal testing.
No product we recommend in this article is tested on animals at any point during the production process. They come from ethical, cruelty-free makeup brands, which can be hard to find in the massive beauty industry.
Full Reviews of Our Top Picks
Best Foundation: Milani Conceal + Perfect 2-in-1 Liquid Foundation
The Milani Conceal + Perfect Foundation comes in over 40 shades, so there is a color for just about every complexion. The appeal of this foundation is that it combines a liquid foundation with the power of concealer to create smooth, even, flawless-looking skin in one step. The waterproof foundation has a natural-looking satin matte finish for all-day wear.
Customer Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars with about 15,000 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Milani Cosmetics is both Leaping Bunny Certified and a PETA Beauty Without Bunnies brand. The company's focus on inclusivity and affordability makes it one of the best cruelty-free makeup brands for any shopper.
Best Concealer: NYX HD Studio Photogenic Concealer
This medium-coverage concealer goes on smoothly to help cover blemishes, skin discoloration and under-eye circles. NYX's concealer wand comes in 23 shades including color-correcting green, yellow and lavender.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with over 30,500 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: NYX Professional Makeup products are certified cruelty-free by PETA. This product is also vegan and doesn't contain any gluten, soy or parabens.
Best Pressed Powder: IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores Pressed Finishing Powder
This translucent pressed setting powder is good for any skin tone, and its formula helps to blur the appearance of pores and imperfections. The Bye Bye Pores pressed powder can be useful for touch-ups throughout the day. It can also double as a blotting powder.
Customer Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars with over 2,100 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: This formulation was developed with insights from plastic surgeons and dermatologists and uses an anti-aging mix of peptides, silk, hydrolyzed collagen and antioxidants that may help skin look more youthful. IT Cosmetics is PETA Beauty Without Bunnies certified. This product is also free of parabens and propylene glycol.
Best Blush: Milani Baked Blush
Milani's Baked Blush is available in 16 different shades, adding a pop of color to any complexion. The color range includes rose and peach tones with satin or shimmery finishes. Each high-quality Milani blush is sunbaked on Italian terracotta tiles to ensure it gives your skin a warm glow.
Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 21,500 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: This Milani product is certified cruelty-free by both Leaping Bunny and PETA Beauty Without Bunnies standards. It is vegan and is made without paraben preservatives.
Best Highlighter: Pacifica Beauty Ice Baby Hydrating Highlighter
Made with coconut water and exuding a cool pink tint, Pacifica's Ice Baby Hydrating Highlighter may be a good choice for those looking for a lush, glowy look. The formula creates a velvety powder that's easy to apply to the cheekbones, nose, upper lip or anywhere else you want to shine.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with over 200 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: The formula for this highlighter is 100% vegan and cruelty-free to the standards of PETA's Beauty Without Bunnies program. The formula does not include parabens or phthalates.
Best Eyeshadow Palette: e.l.f. Mad for Matte Eyeshadow Palette
This e.l.f. Cosmetics palette includes 10 matte shadows that are great for shading, highlighting and defining the eyes. The palette's diversity allows you to mix and match colors to achieve both natural and more bold looks.
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with over 350 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: All e.l.f. Cosmetics products are vegan and endorsed by PETA's Beauty Without Bunnies program. This eyeshadow palette is also paraben-free and doesn't use phthalates, nonylphenol, ethoxylates, triclosan, triclocarban or hydroquinone.
Best Eyeliner: Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eyeliner Pencil
Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eyeliner Pencil is designed to make application a breeze. It has a long-lasting, creamy formula that makes drawing beautiful, precise lines simple and smooth. Or, it can be smudged out for a smokey-eye look.
Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 3,500 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Urban Decay's 24/7 eyeliner pencil utilizes moisturizing and hydrating ingredients such as vitamin E, jojoba oil and cottonseed oil. Like all of Urban Decay's products, this eyeliner is certified cruelty-free by PETA. It also doesn't contain any fragrances, parabens, gluten or soy.
Best Cruelty-Free Mascara: Essence Cosmetics Lash Princess False Lash Effect Mascara
This mascara utilizes a cone-shaped fiber brush that helps to separate and coat each lash, creating a voluminous look without clumping. Essence's Lash Princess mascara formula helps to prevent flaking and fading, so it's good for all-day wear.
Customer Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars with over 202,000 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Essence is a PETA Beauty Without Bunnies cruelty-free makeup brand, so you can be sure it never tests on animals. The formula doesn't include gluten, parabens, soy, propylene glycol or other harsh irritants.
Best Vegan Lip Balm: Eco Lips Mongo Kiss Lip Balm
This USDA certified organic product uses ingredients like mongongo oil and cocoa butter that help soothe and moisturize dry, cracked and chapped lips. It can be used as a base for lipstick or lip liner.
Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars with over 3,500 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Eco Lips vegan beauty products are earth-friendly and cruelty-free. The lip balm container is made from over 40% post-consumer recycled material. The formula doesn't include any parabens, lanolin, gluten, soy, propylene glycol, corn, chemicals, petroleum, dyes or irritants. It is certified non-GMO, Fair Trade, Leaping Bunny and PETA Beauty Without Bunnies.
Best Lipstick: IT Cosmetics Pillow Lips Lipstick
This IT Cosmetics lipstick comes in a variety of shades with both cream and matte finishes, so there is something for everyone. The lipstick includes collagen to help create a plumping effect, making lips look fuller. Its high-impact color and pigment can be applied in a single swipe.
Customer Rating: 4 out of 5 stars with about 150 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Along with collagen, this lipstick's PETA-certified cruelty-free formula includes hyaluronic filling spheres, shea butter and beeswax. The ingredients are helpful in minimizing the look of lip wrinkles.
Best Setting Spray: Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray
Urban Decay's award-winning setting spray uses temperature control technology to help makeup stay on for up to 16 hours. It is oil-free and suitable for all skin types, including oily, normal and dry skin.
Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars with over 5,000 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: The All Nighter Setting Spray is one of Urban Decay's vegan beauty products. It's also certified cruelty-free to PETA Beauty Without Bunnies standards. The formula includes no parabens gluten, dye, soy or oil.
FAQ: Cruelty-Free Makeup Brands
Is L'Oréal cruelty-free?
L'Oréal is not cruelty-free. Its products are sold in China, where the government requires animal testing for foreign cosmetics.
Is Maybelline cruelty-free?
Like its parent company L'Oréal, Maybelline is not cruelty-free. Its products are sold in China, where the government requires animal testing for foreign cosmetics.
Is Kylie Cosmetics cruelty-free?
Kylie Cosmetics products are not tested on animals, but the brand's parent company,Coty, Inc, is not cruelty-free.
What makeup doesn't test on animals?
There are plenty of makeup brands that don't test on animals. When looking for products, keep an eye out for cruelty-free signals such as Leaping Bunny Certified or PETA Beauty Without Bunnies logos.
Is "cruelty-free" makeup really cruelty-free?
The term "cruelty-free" is currently not regulated by the U.S. government, so you can't trust every product or company that advertises this. Some brands contract other companies to do their animal testing but claim to "not test on animals" because they are not doing the testing themselves. The best way to be certain a company or product is actually cruelty-free is to look for certifications such as Leaping Bunny or PETA Beauty Without Bunnies.
This year's Living Planet Report shows that populations of animals—including mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians—plummeted by 60 percent between 1970 and 2014. But those living in freshwater are experiencing a far more drastic decline: 83% since 1970. It's a sobering statistic and one tied directly to the ever-increasing pressures that people are putting on natural habitats.
We can learn a lot about the health of freshwater habitats overall by studying the animals that live in them. If freshwater animals are on the decline, that's a sign that the entire ecosystem is in trouble. Freshwater habitats face a host of threats, including increases in the amount of water we take from them; drainage of wetlands; pollution from industry, sewage and farms; invasive plant and animal species; climate change; and infrastructure development in and along waterways.
Perhaps the most urgent threat to freshwater animals and their homes is the dams, bridges, roads and other infrastructure that interfere with the natural flow and connectivity of rivers. Many freshwater fish, for example, rely on free-flowing rivers to eat, reproduce and access nutrients necessary for their survival.
Connected rivers help people, too. Free-flowing rivers move sediment to floodplains and deltas downstream, providing nutrients and soil for floodplain agriculture, allowing for healthy fisheries and supporting the resilience of delta habitats under a changing climate.
Keeping Rivers Connected and Flowing
There are currently nearly 60,000 large dams on rivers around the world and more than 3,700 more hydro dams—structures that give us energy from the flow of water—are planned globally. While hydropower plays an important role in today's renewable energy revolution, it must be carefully planned so as to minimize loss of river health.
This means considering the health of an entire river basin to find energy opportunities with the least amount of impact on the environment and people. Into the future, the dropping prices of wind and solar power, along with innovations in the ability to store power, provide the possibility for countries to meet energy demands with less hydropower and therefore fewer dams.
We can also set aside a certain amount of water in a river basin exclusively for the protection of nature and for people. Called a "water reserve," this concept requires a careful calculation of how much water people can use for energy, agriculture and other purposes and how much must remain in the river to sustain a healthy ecosystem.
This summer, Mexico authorized water reserves in nearly 300 river basins, including in one of the country's longest remaining free-flowing rivers, the Usumacinta. WWF worked with Mexico's National Water Commission to calculate how much water could be allocated to human activity and how much water should remain in the river to sustain a healthy ecosystem. This science-based planning and policies backing it up ensure water quality and quantity for 45 million Mexicans for the next 50 years—all while protecting the river's plants and wildlife.
You Can Help
The decline in groups of freshwater animals is staggering, but we can help reverse the trend. Join WWF's Freshwater Force to take action to stop bad dams and infrastructure development in freshwater habitats, raise awareness of the importance of freshwater, and champion the wildlife and communities that depend on free-flowing, clean rivers for survival.
Earth Hour 2018: Globe Unites to Celebrate People’s Connection to Planet https://t.co/B66o5zcVjS @GreenpeaceUK @wwwfoecouk— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1522149013.0
Yahoo Japan is the single biggest online platform for elephant ivory sales in Japan, according to a new TRAFFIC investigation, which recorded a staggering 4,414 ivory items plus 35 whole tusks for sale over a four-week period in June and July 2018.
The latest findings were revealed Thursday in "System Error, Reboot Required: Review of online ivory trade in Japan," which finds the overall number of elephant ivory items for sale on Yahoo Japan had fallen by 55 percent—from 9,788 to 4,414—compared to a similar survey in 2017. However the study found that the combined total value of ivory traded fell by only 16 percent, to JPY 37.8 million (USD 340,626) over the same time period, largely because of an increase in the sales of whole tusks, from 22 to 35.
Under current Japanese legislation, only sales of whole ivory tusks have to be registered, but two of the tusks were sold without appropriate documentation.
The buoyant ivory sales on Yahoo Japan were in marked contrast to other major Japanese retail platforms, notably Rakuten-Ichiba, Rakuma and Mercari—all of whom introduced voluntary ivory bans in 2017 following international concerns about the sale of ivory in domestic markets fueling demand and leading to the poaching of elephants. Shops selling ivory were no longer identified on Rakuten-Ichiba and there was a significant reduction in ivory advertisements on Mecari (up to 98 percent) and on Rakuma, although a number of cryptic advertisements, use of code words, and rapid turnover in ivory products indicated some ongoing persistent trade.
"The major online retail outlets in Japan have aligned their policies with those of the international community—apart from Yahoo Japan, who appear to undervalue the impact and risk of continuing to trade ivory," said Tomomi Kitade, head of TRAFFIC's Japan office and lead author of the report.
Some 88 percent of the trade in ivory observed on the Yahoo Auction website, part of the Yahoo Japan group, lacked proof-of-legality. The platform has also previously been identified as a source in the illegal export of 3.2 tonnes of ivory to China over an 18 month period up to April 2012.
TRAFFIC's surveys also attempted to assess the impact of new regulations that came into force in Japan in June 2018, which call upon any businesses, as opposed to private individuals, selling ivory to display their registration details. However, according to the study, "Non-compliance with the requirement to display business registration was relatively high overall, ranging from 22% to 52%. Furthermore, discerning whether the legal requirement applies to the many anonymous sellers on auction, CtoC (Customer to Customer) and SNS (Social Networking Sites) platforms presented a serious challenge."
Although there is a government scheme for voluntary product certification, the study found its use sparse amongst online retailers and nearly non-existent on other platforms.
"The Japanese government should urgently introduce measures that effectively ban unregulated CtoC trade, while all e-commerce companies should introduce voluntary bans on ivory products and collaborate with initiatives such as the Global Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online," said Kitade.
"Ivory Towers: An Assessment of Japan's Ivory Trade and Domestic Market," a TRAFFIC study released in December 2017 revealed how poor regulation of the domestic ivory market in Japan had led to illegal exports of ivory, particularly to the Chinese market.
Japan's lack of adequate regulation of its domestic ivory market means the country is failing to live up to its commitments under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which calls on countries to take every measure to ensure domestic ivory markets do not contribute to elephant poaching or illegal trade.
"WWF through its representatives in Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America will be calling upon Yahoo Japan to institute an immediate voluntary ban on trading elephant ivory through its platforms. Japan is in urgent need of policy reform to eliminate unregulated ivory trade effectively from its domestic market and to live up to international expectations," said Margaret Kinnaird, WWF wildlife practice leader.
Hong Kong Bans #ivory Sales, UK Considers Similar Move @EcoWatch https://t.co/YvMSdzZKsD https://t.co/BQpHMSWkYF— WildAid (@WildAid)1517650980.0
Thanks to a series of conservation measures enacted by Belize's government, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System—one the world's most incredible, diverse ecosystems—has been removed from the UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger sites.
The historic decision came this week during a World Heritage Committee meeting in Bahrain, just five months after the Belizean government imposed a moratorium on oil exploration and drilling in all of Belize's offshore waters—a landmark piece of legislation that protected critical ecosystems and established the country as a new world leader in ocean conservation.
"At time when we are seeing numerous threats to World Heritage sites, Belize's government has taken real action to protect one of the world's most special places," said Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International. "We have seen an incredible turnaround from when the reef was being threatened by seismic testing for oil just eighteen months ago."
Comprised of seven protected areas, Belize's Barrier Reef System is the second-largest reef system in the world and is home to nearly 1,400 species, from endangered hawksbill turtles to West Indian manatees, sting rays, coral and six threatened species of sharks.
Nearly 200,000 people—more than half Belize's population—rely on the reef to live. Reef-based tourism and recreational activities provide vital sources of income and account for an estimated $200 million of Belize's GDP, while commercial fishing contributes about $15 million. The reef also provides important natural protection against damages from extreme storms along the coast.
The Belize Barrier Reef System was first inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996 in recognition of the site's incredible biodiversity and cultural significance. But in the last decade, exploration for oil, development along the coast, and a lack of strong regulations have posed increasing threats to the fragile ecosystem. The reef site was added to UNESCO's List of World Heritage in Danger in 2009 due to the threat of irreversible damage from harmful coastal construction and oil exploration.
Last year, more than 450,000 people from around the world joined WWF and other organizations—including Oceana, the Belize Tourism Association, Belize Audubon Society and Belize Institute for Environmental Law and Policy—to campaign against proposed oil exploration near the World Heritage site. They signed petitions, wrote letters, and used social media to urge the country's government to secure the long-term protection of the barrier reef.
Antonio Busiello / WWF-US
Their hard work payed off.
In December 2017, Belize agreed to put an end to oil exploration in its waters and began to secure the region against immediate threats—a critical step towards protecting the reef, its species and the people who rely on it. Belize is now just one of three countries in the world with such legislation.
"Belizeans stood up to protect their reef, with hundreds of thousands more globally joining the campaign to save our shared heritage. In taking swift collaborative action, Belize has shown that it is possible to reverse nature loss and create a sustainable future," added Lambertini.
Belize also recently adopted critical regulations to protect the country's mangroves and announced that it would begin to phase out single-use plastics like plastic bags, utensils, and take-out containers that threaten species and delicate ecosystems.
But there's still more work to be done to ensure that Belize's barrier reef and the rest of the World Heritage sites—and the 11 million people they support worldwide—continue to be protected for future generations.
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Each year, almost 1.2 billion people travel abroad, making travel and tourism one of the largest industries in the world. Representing a whopping 10 percent of the global economy, it supplies millions of jobs and benefits countless communities.
Yet while travel has many positive impacts, it can also take a heavy toll on the environment, from putting increased strain on fragile ecosystems and culturally significant sites to contributing to rising fossil fuel emissions. But that doesn't mean you have to drop your suitcase and cancel your reservations, says WWF's travel experts. These simple actions can help you significantly reduce the footprint of your next trip and leave a positive impact on local communities.
1. Do Your Homework
Before you book, research destinations that prioritize sustainability and that are investing in preserving their natural and cultural heritage. Some countries, such as Namibia and Bhutan, have environmental protection written into their constitution. Others demonstrate an ongoing commitment to conservation by creating and taking care of their national parks, marine reserves, and wildlife refuges. According to Jim Sano, WWF's Vice President of Travel and Conservation, "Selecting a destination that achieves a balance of protecting natural and cultural resources, providing for sustainable livelihoods, and creating a high-quality traveler experience is challenging. Green Destinations has started to compile a list of sustainable destinations against the Global Sustainable Tourism Council's Destination Criteria—a recognized set of criteria to assess a destination's management policies and practices. Two-hundred destinations have been selected to date."
2. Getting There
One of the best ways to travel more sustainably is to be thoughtful about your modes of travel. Are there environmentally-friendly ways to reach your destination? If you must fly, you can reduce your carbon footprint by selecting direct flights and by choosing a more energy-efficient aircraft, both of which lead to less jet fuel being burned. Travelers can also offset their travel emissions by purchasing reputable, accredited carbon credits from an offset platform like MyClimate.
3. Find Eco-Friendly Lodging
Seek out eco-conscious hotels and accommodations that support sustainable development and have minimal impact on the surrounding environment. Specifically, look for places to stay that use renewable energy, have effective waste management systems, recycle, or were built using renewable materials. With the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, you can easily find certified sustainable lodging to fit your requirements.
4. Choose Tours Wisely
When scheduling tours or sight-seeing trips, book through companies that adhere to environmentally-friendly policies, including protecting wildlife, supporting indigenous peoples, and employing local guides who are familiar with regional laws and customs. Thankfully, there's an abundance of reputable companies that can help globetrotters find adventures that aren't damaging to nature or communities.
5. Support Local Economies
Try to visit regions where local people are empowered to manage their land and natural resources—such as wildlife, parks and marine protected areas—meaning that tourism dollars directly benefit the local economy and can influence positive change.
6. Shop Carefully
Tempted by an "antique" carved ivory tusk? Or a black coral bracelet? Think twice. Just because an item is for sale doesn't mean it's legal to purchase. Some products, such as snake wine, tortoiseshell accessories, shells and coral jewelry, ivory, or furs are made from protected plants or endangered species and can be illegal to export or import. They can also be the products of poaching or mislabeled to entice tourists. Before you spend, be sure to ask questions. What is the item made of? Where did it come from? By making informed choices—or just saying no—you could dodge a serious fine at customs or help reduce the market demand for trafficked, at-risk species. For a list of items to avoid, check out WWF's Buyer Beware Guide.
7. Be Smart About Plastics
Each year, more than 8 million tons of plastics wind up in our ocean, where they disrupt delicate ecosystems and endanger marine wildlife. Much of this harmful waste comes from single-use plastics like throw-away water bottles, take-out packaging, and plastic shopping bags not recovered by waste management. Minimize the amount of plastic waste you produce when you travel by carrying a re-usable water bottle, opting for locally filtered water where possible, and bringing your own tote bags for shopping.
8. Look, Don't Touch
No matter where you go, you should never touch, feed, taunt, or play with the wild animals you encounter, which could spell trouble for both you and the animal. Also keep away from tourist attractions where you're allowed to have hands-on experiences with animals or where wild animals are exploited. These are often harmful to the animals and fuel the illicit trade in exotic pets or endangered animal parts.
9. Pick Your Products
Some common sunscreens and soaps contain harmful chemicals that can be absorbed by the ocean's fragile coral reefs systems and contribute to coral bleaching. Before you dive in, make sure to use reef-friendly products, such as biodegradable or mineral-based sunscreens, shampoo and soaps. Or think about switching to protective clothing, like rash guards and wet suits, which dermatologists say are just as effective as sunscreen.
10. Enjoy Sustainable Activities
As you explore new places, opt for recreational activities that don't pollute or use energy, such as kayaking, biking or hiking. Not only will you create zero carbon emissions, you'll likely discover unique sights and experiences away from the beaten path.
As part of the Global Climate Action Summit, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), together with a broad coalition of partners, on Monday issued the 30X30 Forests, Food and Land Challenge: calling on businesses, states, city and local governments, and global citizens to take action for better forest and habitat conservation, food production and consumption, and land use, working together across all sectors of the economy to deliver up to 30 percent of the climate solutions needed by 2030.
Hosted in San Francisco from September 12-14, the Summit will bring together thousands of people from around the world to drive ambition to the next level. It will be a moment to recognize the extraordinary achievements of states, regions, cities, companies, investors, and citizens taking climate action and to catalyze bold new commitments and action.
Collectively, the global food system, unsustainable forest management, infrastructure development, and other activities related to land use are a major driver of global climate change, accounting for more greenhouse gas emissions than the total emissions from all cars, trucks, trains, planes and ships in the world. Forests, grasslands, and other habitats pull carbon out of the atmosphere, but when they are cleared, they release carbon and their capacity to reabsorb it is diminished. In the soil and in healthy ecosystems, carbon is a building block of life; in the atmosphere, it heats the planet.
"To curb climate change, we must address the second-greatest source of emissions: our use of land," said Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, head of WWF's global climate and energy practice."By taking concrete action, businesses and local leaders also can encourage national governments to more aggressively reduce carbon emissions using every resource available, including trees, grasses and soil."
California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., a summit co-chair, recently underlined the actions California is taking to deal with forest losses. Forests serve as the state's largest land-based carbon sink, drawing carbon from the atmosphere, but even a single wildfire can quickly undermine those benefits.
"Devastating forest fires are a profound challenge to California," Governor Brown said recently when issuing a sweeping executive order to increase the ability of forests to capture carbon. "I intend to mobilize the resources of the state to protect our forests and ensure they absorb carbon to the maximum degree."
"Climate change is already disrupting and destabilizing our global food and agricultural systems," said Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever. "By eliminating habitat loss and degradation from our supply chains, we can prevent the emission of billions of tons of greenhouse gases. Businesses like ours have a responsibility and an opportunity to help the nations of the world meet and exceed the goals of the Paris Agreement."
Businesses, state and local agencies, multilateral organizations, scientists, and other stakeholders can meet this challenge by taking concrete action to:
- Halve food loss and waste and consume conscientiously.
- Sequester one gigaton of carbon per year in forests and other natural and working lands.
- Enable better production of food and fiber by unlocking finance, providing tools to increase transparency, fostering public-private collaboration and protecting local rights.
Because Indigenous Peoples and local communities are among the most effective guardians of natural habitats and most directly harmed by the loss and degradation of forests and waterways, engaging and protecting these constituencies and their tenure rights will be critical to meeting the 30X30 Challenge.
"Given the large but unrecognized contributions indigenous peoples are making by protecting huge areas of the world's forests, we are central to the climate solution," said Cándido Mezua, an Embera leader from Panama and secretary for international relations for the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests. "Governments and the private sector should embrace our approach to sustainable development, partner with us in the planning, and allow us to share in the prosperity that results."
100+ Candidates for Congress Want to Win in 2018 on a Platform of Decisive Climate Action https://t.co/qda6zRjXZ1… https://t.co/VfDCIcYHrL— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1515609347.0
The Mediterranean Sea is turning into a dangerous plastic trap, with record levels of pollution from microplastics threatening marine species and human health, according to a new World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report released Friday.
Coinciding with World Oceans Day, the WWF report "Out of the Plastic Trap: Saving the Mediterranean From Plastic Pollution" raises the alarm on the dramatic effects that excessive plastic use, poor waste management and mass tourism are having on one of the most visited regions in the world.
Bringing together the most recent data and scientific evidence on plastic use in Europe and the many ways in which it impacts marine life, the report presents a detailed roadmap of the urgent actions institutions, businesses and citizens need to take to stop plastic waste from reaching the sea.
"The impacts of plastic pollution in the Mediterranean are also being felt across the world and are causing serious harm both to nature and human health. Worsening plastic pollution will threaten the Mediterranean's global reputation for tourism and seafood, undermining the local communities who depend on these sectors for their livelihoods. The plastics problem is also a symptom of the overall decline in the health of the Mediterranean and must serve as a rallying call for real action," said John Tanzer, leader of the WWF International oceans program.
Today, plastic represents 95 percent of the waste floating in the Mediterranean and lying on its beaches. Most of this plastic is released into the sea from Turkey and Spain, followed by Italy, Egypt and France, with tourists visiting the region increasing marine litter by 40 percent each summer.
Large plastic pieces injure, suffocate and often kill marine animals, including protected and endangered species, such as sea turtles and monk seals. But it is microplastics—smaller and more insidious fragments—that have reached record levels of concentration of 1.25 million fragments per km2 in the Mediterranean Sea, almost four times higher than in the "plastic island" found in the North Pacific Ocean. By entering the food chain, these fragments threaten an increasing number of animal species as well as people.
"In Europe, we produce an enormous amount of plastic waste, the majority of which is sent to landfills, resulting in millions of tonnes of plastic entering the Mediterranean Sea each year. This contaminating flow, combined with the Mediterranean being semi-enclosed, has seen harmful microplastics reach record concentration levels, threatening both marine species and human health," said Giuseppe Di Carlo, director of WWF's Mediterranean marine initiative.
"We cannot let the Mediterranean drown in plastic. We need to act urgently and across the whole supply chain to save our ocean from the pervasive presence of plastics."
According to the report, delays and gaps in plastic waste management in most Mediterranean countries are among the root causes of plastic pollution. Out of the 27 million tonnes of plastic waste produced each year in Europe (Europe here refers to EU-28, Norway and Switzerland), only a third is recycled; half of all plastic waste in Italy, France and Spain ends up in landfills. Recycled plastics currently account for only 6 percent of plastics demand in Europe.
WWF is urging governments, businesses and individuals to adopt a number of actions to reduce plastic pollution in urban, coastal and marine environments in the Mediterranean and globally. These include:
- The adoption of a legally-binding international agreement to eliminate plastic discharge into the oceans, supported by strong national targets to achieve 100 percent plastic waste recycled and reusable by 2030 and national bans for single-use plastic items such as bags.
- A call to businesses to invest in innovation and design toward more effective and sustainable plastic use.
40-Ton Sperm Whales Killed by Plastic Bags in Mediterranean #plasticpollutes https://t.co/KfdCTPTsrg— Plastic Pollutes (@Plastic Pollutes)1527734403.0
Numbers of critically endangered mountain gorillas are on the up, following conservation efforts in the transboundary Virunga Massif, one of the two remaining areas where the great ape is still found.
Survey results released Thursday reveal that numbers have increased to 604 from an estimated 480 in 2010, including 41 social groups, along with 14 solitary males in the transboundary area. This brings the global wild population of mountain gorillas to an estimated 1,004 when combined with published figures from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (where the rest of the sub-species is found) and makes it the only great ape in the world that is considered to be increasing in population.
The findings are the result of intensive surveying coordinated by the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration and supported by the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP—a coalition program of Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and World Wildlife Fund WWF) along with other partners.
Despite this good news, the survey found that direct threats from wire or rope snares persist. During the surveys, the teams found and destroyed more than 380 snares, which were set for antelope but can also kill or harm gorillas. One of the snares discovered by the teams contained a dead mountain gorilla. There are also new threats looming large on the horizon, including climate change, infrastructure development and the ever-present specter of disease, which has the potential to devastate the remaining populations.
Ongoing conflict and civil unrest in the region also present an ongoing risk, impacting people and wildlife. A number of rangers have been killed in recent weeks in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Virunga National Park.
"This is fabulous news for mountain gorillas and shows what we can do for wildlife when NGOs, governments and their communities work together," said Margaret Kinnaird, wildlife practice leader with WWF. "The mountain gorilla story can be a model for how to restore and maintain our earth's precious biodiversity," she added.
"Since FFI first began working to protect mountain gorillas in the 1970s, we have seen a remarkable transformation in the fortunes of this great ape, which at that time was on the very precipice of extinction," said Alison Mollon, director of operations for Africa at FFI. "This turnaround is thanks to the extraordinary efforts of all those who have persisted through immense challenges—sometimes even risking their own lives—to protect these great apes."
The census involved twelve teams—comprising people from more than 10 institutions—which covered more than 2,000 kilometers (approximately 1,243 miles) of difficult, forested terrain systematically searching the mountain gorilla habitat for signs of the animals, recording nest sites and collecting faeces samples for genetic analysis. The teams also looked for evidence of threats to gorillas and other wildlife.
Reacting to the news, FFI vice president and WWF-UK ambassador Sir David Attenborough said: "When I first visited the mountain gorillas in 1979, the situation was dire; the number of these remarkable animals was dreadfully small. It is incredibly heartening therefore to see how the efforts of so many different groups—communities, governments, NGOs—have paid off. The threats to mountain gorillas haven't disappeared entirely, of course, so now the challenge must be to ensure that these achievements are sustained long into the future."
The survey results underscore the need for continued attention and action by government agencies, protected area staff, tourism operators, tourists and communities alike, to ward off these threats and keep mountain gorillas safe in the long term.
Top 25 Most Endangered Primates: the Most Current List https://t.co/IPIr8ICAJa @ImageOfWildlife @JaneGoodallInst— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1512079511.0
As the 2018 climate talks kick off under the auspices of the UN next week, "business unusual" must be the mantra delegations need heard resoundingly in Bonn, said the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Speaking ahead of the start of the meeting, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF's global climate and energy programme leader, said the window of opportunity to keep global temperature rise below 1.5°C is fast closing.
"It will take an unprecedented effort by governments, non-Party actors and people to keep global temperature rise to below 1.5°C. That's why 2018 has to be the year we step up our climate action. We can no longer afford to keep doing things at the pace and scale we've been doing. Now we need 'business unusual' tactics to drastically scale up our efforts to reduce emissions," he said.
The Talanoa Dialogue being championed by the Fiji presidency during this year's climate talks is important because it should inspire countries to look at new ways they can enhance their efforts, said Pulgar-Vidal. This is particularly critical as countries must agree to table revised national climate action plans with the UN by 2020 under the Paris agreement. The national decision-making processes to do so should start now.
Pulgar-Vidal also highlighted the role of non-Party actors in contributing toward 'business unusual' action. Cities and business, among many others, are making incredible efforts to align themselves to the Paris agreement goals and we hope the momentum we are seeing, including for the Global Climate Action Summit, taking place in September in San Francisco, triggers deeper commitments from national governments. Already, more than 389 global companies have committed to take action and set science-based targets, he said.
The entry into force of the Kigali Amendment of the Montreal Protocol in January next year offers countries another opportunity to scale up action through targets to phase out super greenhouse gases and short-lived pollutants like hydrofluorocarbons.
Another indication that countries are serious about their climate action ambitions would be if the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (called the Doha Amendment) could enter into force by COP24. It commits developed countries to reducing emissions in the period before 2020.
"The strong take-up of these actions by countries in the coming months will send a clear signal that there is the necessary commitment by governments to step up and do more to reduce emissions," said Pulgar-Vidal.
Michael Bloomberg Pledges $4.5 Million to Help U.S. Meet Paris Climate Commitment https://t.co/sUFrc0ZGc7… https://t.co/DZT2LrAN3U— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1524491609.0
Individuals, businesses and organizations in a record 188 countries and territories worldwide joined WWF's Earth Hour Saturday to spark unprecedented conversation and action on stopping the loss of nature, a day after 550 scientists warned of a "dangerous decline" in global biodiversity.
Close to 18,000 landmarks switched off their lights in solidarity as people across the globe generated more than 3.5 billion impressions of #EarthHour, #connect2earth and related hashtags to show their concern for the planet. The hashtags trended in 33 countries.
"Once again, the people have spoken through Earth Hour," said Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International. "The record participation in this year's Earth Hour, from skylines to timelines, is a powerful reminder that people want to connect to Earth. People are demanding commitment now on halting climate change and the loss of nature. The stakes are high and we need urgent action to protect the health of the planet for a safe future for us and all life on Earth."
From Colombia to Indonesia to Fiji, Earth Hour 2018 mobilized people to join efforts to protect forests and mangroves. In Romania, hundreds of people showed their commitment to safeguarding nature by writing symbolic letters to rivers, forests and wildlife. In Africa, 24 countries celebrated Earth Hour to highlight the most pressing conservation challenges they face such as access to renewable energy, freshwater resources and habitat degradation.
Earth Hour 2018 celebrations in ScotlandWWF
This Earth Hour, for the first time, people across the globe also joined the conversation on connect2earth to share what nature means to them, in the places they live in and care about. The platform, created in partnership with the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention of Biological Diversity and supported by Germany's Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety with funding from the International Climate Initiative, aims to build mass awareness on the values of biodiversity and nature to our lives, health and well-being.
"The science is clear: the loss of nature is a global crisis. Wildlife has declined by close to 60 percent in just over 40 years. Our planet is at a crossroads and we cannot have a prosperous future on a depleted, degraded planet. Together as a global community we can turn things around. People must mobilize and join governments and companies toward stronger action on biodiversity and nature—the time to act is now," added Lambertini.
The impacts of accelerating biodiversity loss and climate change on the planet are profound, as are the consequences for humanity. As French President Emmanuel Macron stated in a special message for Earth Hour, "The time for denial is long past, we are losing our battle against climate change and the collapse of biodiversity. If this trend continues, our planet's ecosystems will collapse, along with the clean air, water, food and stable climate that they provide."
To drive further global awareness and action on nature and the environment, WWF has also joined forces with the World Organization of the Scout Movement this Earth Hour. The energy and voices of 50 million scouts worldwide send a resounding message to decision-makers worldwide that the time to act on nature, for nature is now.
WWF and Earth Hour teams around the world will continue to empower individuals, communities, businesses and governments to be a part of environmental action. In his video statement for Earth Hour, UN Secretary-General António Guterres reiterated the need for people to work together to build a sustainable future for all. Strengthened by the support shown, teams will renew the charge to tackle issues such as sustainable lifestyles, deforestation, plastic pollution and ocean conservation across continents.
Earth Hour 2018 celebrations in RussiaWWF
Earth Hour 2018: Facts and figures (based on initial estimates on March 25, 2018):
- 188 countries and territories focused on environmental action and issues such as protecting biodiversity, sustainable lifestyles, deforestation, plastics and stronger climate policy;
- Lights out at around 17,900 landmarks including the Sydney Opera House (Sydney), Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament (London), the Tokyo Sky Tree (Tokyo), the Empire State Building (New York), the Pyramids of Egypt (Cairo), Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (Abu Dhabi), Christ the Redeemer statue (Rio de Janeiro) and the Eiffel Tower (Paris);
- 3.5 billion + impressions of official campaign hashtags between January and March 2018. Related hashtags also trended in 33 countries;
- Around 250 celebrities and influencers worldwide also raised their voice for the planet including Andy Murray, Jared Leto, Ellie Goulding, The Killers, Amitabh Bachchan, Li Bingbing, Park Seo-joon, Claudia Bahamon and Roger Milla;
- Earth Hour partners include Zinkia Entertainment Ltd, creators of popular cartoon character Pocoyo, and crowdsourcing platform Userfarm.
- Skylines to Switch Off as Millions Connect to the Planet to Celebrate ... ›
- Earth Hour 2021 Shines a Virtual Spotlight on the Natural World ›
On Saturday, March 24 at 8:30 p.m. local time, skylines around the world will go dark as millions celebrate WWF's Earth Hour to spark global awareness and action on nature and the environment.
From the Eiffel Tower to the Empire State Building, and the Bird's Nest stadium to Burj Khalifa, thousands of landmarks will switch off their lights in solidarity for the planet, urging individuals, businesses and governments worldwide to move forward the conversations and solutions we need to build a healthy, sustainable future for all.
For the first time, in addition to participating in the global switch-off, WWF is inviting people across the globe to connect2earth to share and talk about what nature means to them, in the places they live in and care about. As the planet faces the dual challenge of climate change and the staggering loss of nature, the world's largest grassroots movement for the environment aims to mobilize unprecedented global action on biodiversity and nature by kick-starting global conversations on issues such as healthy forests, plastic-free oceans and wildlife conservation.
"Nature is in alarming decline. Halting its loss is urgent and crucial as much as tackling climate change," said Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International. "Biodiversity and nature is the foundation of life, essential to our wellbeing. Yet we continue to take nature for granted while our actions are pushing it to the brink. This Earth Hour, we want to shine a light on the importance of biodiversity and nature. Together, as individuals, businesses and governments, we must show the same determination to halt biodiversity and nature loss as we have shown on climate action to secure a healthy, thriving and living planet for all."
In the past decade, Earth Hour has inspired millions to support and participate in critical climate and conservation projects led by WWF and many others, helping drive climate policy, awareness and action worldwide. Among its highlights, the movement has helped ban all plastics in the Galapagos in 2014, plant 17 million trees in Kazakhstan, light up homes with solar power in India and the Philippines and push new legislation for the protection of seas and forests in Russia. Today, as biodiversity loss threatens global ambition on climate action and sustainable development, Earth Hour will focus its efforts on building mainstream support for action on biodiversity and nature.
"The totality of forms of life on the planet, what we call biodiversity, provides the infrastructure for the healthy functioning of natural systems," said Cristiana Paşca Palmer, executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity. "This is critical not only to safeguarding life on Earth but also to the wellbeing and development of the human species. Once this natural capital is destroyed, life on Earth, as we know it currently, will no longer be possible. It is therefore imperative to take action, today and every day, to help safeguard biodiversity.
"Earth Hour links people from all around the globe ... It is my great hope that together with our partners from WWF, Earth Hour will inspire and mobilize a wave of actions ... WWF is a dynamic partner of the Secretariat of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, helping to raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity and nature for people and communities worldwide."
In 2018, French Polynesia is expected to move to protect 5 million square kilometers (approximately 1.9 million square miles) of its seas to preserve ocean ecosystems. In Kenya, school children will plant 500,000 trees to help reduce deforestation and in Hong Kong and the UK, people will pledge to shift toward sustainable living. In Colombia, people will call for the country to commit to zero deforestation by 2020. In China and Singapore, WWF will mobilize public support for plastic-free lifestyles.
Recognizing the critical role young people will play in creating a more sustainable world, WWF is also joining forces with the World Organization of the Scout Movement to inspire scouts worldwide to be a part of the global movement—and momentum—tackling the planet's most pressing environmental challenges and to become environmental leaders of tomorrow.
Starting as a symbolic lights out event in Sydney in 2007, today Earth Hour is celebrated in more than 180 countries and territories across the globe. Earth Hour 2018 will take place on Saturday, March 24 at 8:30 p.m. local time. Visit www.earthhour.org to know more and read individuals' stories about what they are doing for our planet.