Friday, August 31, 2012

Wyoming, You suck.

Today, this video on the Wyoming wolf delisting went straight to our hearts:

The willingness of Defenders of Wildlife to go straight to the source of these bad policies– the Obama Administration– is commendable. Wish she would have named more names: Department of Interior Secretary Cowboy Ken Salazar has been an abject disaster when it comes to critters in conflict with the livestock industry. Funny thing, that.

This great editorial from the New York Times says it better than we can.
Interior says not to worry. Most of Wyoming’s wolves are in the state’s northwest corner, it points out, and can be shot only during a defined hunting season. Further, the state has agreed not to reduce the statewide population below 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs.
This is a more protective plan than Wyoming’s politicians, ranchers and hunters wanted a year ago. But whether it’s enough to guarantee a sustainable population is far from clear. Interior has promised to review its deals with Montana and Idaho after five years. It must demand the same of Wyoming. The question there is whether, after five years, there will be any wolves left to review.
Really, 15 breeding pairs in a state that is 97, 280 square miles? That's pathetic. It's a token wolf population with such a low threshold that a few dedicated anti-wolf hunters or a stochastic event could simply wipe out. Wyoming has slightly more than half a million people. And we'd say, those folks need to grow up and learn to live with wolves.

This plan is a disaster. Godspeed the lawsuits that shut it down.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Grand Old Polar Ice Caps

If you've been able to tear yourselves away from the riveting GOP convention in Tampa this week– with special appearances by Ann Romney and Chris Christie, woo hoo!– you might have noticed this little tidbit of apparently less important news: Arctic Sea Ice Hits Record Low.

This is bad folks, very bad indeed. Not only will ice melt in the arctic likely cause the release of massive amounts of methane, kicking off a feedback loop of warming, but this feedback loop could cause the Antarctic ice to release even more methane if the sea levels continue to rise around that continent. Warmer planet at a rapid rate= lots of bad stuff happening

It's hard (for us) not to wake up in a cold sweaty panic about this stuff, but apparently, we've got it all wrong. Melting Sea Ice: Bad for polar bears, good for China.

It's the economy, stupid. It's women, the economy, and Mitt Romney. Duh.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Answer is "No."

Recent story about the Fox Mountain pack of Mexican gray wolves features this quote:
“The question we have to answer as a society is ‘do we want to be responsible for extinction of an intelligent and creative animal?’” Robinson said. “The answer is ‘no.’”
That is definitely the question. Are we going to allow a dying industry to dictate the fate of this species or not?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

838,232 acres for jaguars in the southwest!

We're arriving fashionably late to the jaguar party here at Demarcated Landscapes. Not because we didn't know when the party started, but because we wanted everyone else to have a good buzz on before we showed up wearing our crankypants.

First, a toast to a remarkable proposal to protect jaguar habitat on 838,232 acres—"an area larger than Rhode Island" (good story at link)—as "critical" under the Endangered Species Act. Critical habitat means that federal agencies can't "adversely modify" (screw up) lands within the boundaries to the extent that the jaguar will be in jeopardy, that is, in jeopardy of imminent extinction.

In particular, the ruling takes a sharp stick and pokes it right into the eye of the Rosemont Mine,which could be seriously, ahem, hindered if the Fish and Wildlife Service sticks to biology.
The Rosemont Mine was the only major project spelled out in the federal proposal that could potentially damage jaguar habitat. The Wildlife Service is already reviewing the mine project to determine if it will jeopardize 10 federally protected species, including the jaguar. But critical habitat protection is generally more sweeping than protection of individual species. (Via Tony Davis, Arizona Daily Star, who has been covering jaguars and Rosemont forEVER.)
Wouldn't that be dreamy? Two wins in one: jaguars good, mines bad. We'll drink to that!

Now, bottoms up for our critique: It's too bad that the critical habitat isn't the shape of Rhode Island too, because then we would all realize, a) how small it is, and b) how fragmented it is. The Service declined to connect the veritable sky islands of proposed habitat, saying that while jaguars certainly cross through the low elevation areas, it wasn't possible to predict which areas, and therefore, it isn't possible to protect any or all of the low elevation areas because they have no way of knowing which ones are important. Thus, most of the proposed critical habitat runs north-south along the mountain ranges that the cat has been spotted and/or trapped in in recent decades, but not much in between. And barely a scratch in New Mexico, despite the huge potential for recovering the big kitty over there. (Well, "huge" until the same cowboys killing the wolves start killing it anyway.)

In context of the critter's former and otherwise-would-be potential and future range, the current proposal is more of a token gesture, designed to silence the court-happy plaintiffs who twisted the agency's arm into last week's proposal (or didn't). But, it's a hell of a lot better than nothing, which is what the jaguar has now in the U.S. Nonetheless, we'll save the back-slapping until the final rule comes out, kiddos, especially if President Romney gets to appoint the next Interior Secretary.
Talk about a buzzkill, right?

How about a drinking cheer to bring the mood back up again? 

     What do we want? More! / When do we want it? Now! 
     What do we want? Roar! / When do we want it? Meow!

P.S. Who knew? US Fish and Wildlife Service SW Director Steve Spangle trolls the interwebs for blog posts on his proposals. Guess we'd better start being nice. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Way to Stay: How to reconcile Earth's limits with human population

Thomas Robert Malthus was a British scholar who popularized ideas about population dynamics: essentially, that the rate of human population growth would be set by the earth’s ability to sustain it. He saw this pattern at the family-level and at the society-level; his ideas influenced later theories about natural selection and carrying capacity. From his vantage point at the turn of the 19th century, we can imagine he would have been shocked to see the extent to which our culture has pushed the limit of what the earth can sustain through technological innovation.

The film, “What a way to go: Life at the end of the empire,” expresses this shock and sadness about the limit-pushing from the narrator’s contemporary perspective. The film lists the litany of signs that the natural systems of our planet have been pushed beyond sustainability: extinct and endangered species, pollution, garbage, greenhouse gases, nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons to defend against scarcity, and on and on. The film uses a metaphor to explain how we’ve built the empire: by taking bricks from the lower floors of a building to add height to the upper stories. The implication is that we’re destabilizing the spaces below us and that we can ready for collapse; the unspoken tragedy is that the lower floors were occupied by nature, by developing countries, by unknown and ‘unimportant’ beings and life forms are already being crushed by the weight of our culture.

This perspective is very, very similar to the writings of Derrick Jensen, a writer who wrestles with the questions that the narrator raises in “What a Way to Go.” The film interviews Jensen and borrows heavily from his philosophical framing about the choices we are making culturally. Anyone familiar with “Endgame: The Problem of Civilization” will see the similar ideas and descriptions about the issues facing our planet. However, Jensen directly advocates the dismantling of civilization, whereas the film concludes on a somewhat fuzzier and more ambiguous note about how to move forward from here.

Being “Here” is both a conundrum and an opportunity. The narrator recognizes the undoable contribution to resource consumption and unsustainability that he has created by expanding his family. The solution that he proposes for himself is to live in the world as consciously as possible. Under the premise that planetary destruction is unstoppable- and that his children (and we) already exist- the best we can do is find a way out of participating in the destruction and be ready to meet the new world that is being co-created.

Unfortunately, the film leaves off there. There is no roadmap for “getting off the grid,” or creating a different world. It leaves the viewer simply knowing that change is needed, but not really providing a “how to” of what the choices are. Many of the roadmaps we are given recreate the flawed system. For example, critics of Malthus show how his failure to account for technological innovation and a subsequent increase in the global food supply are evidence of the problems with his theory. This only accounts for effects to humans; absent from the equation is an accounting of the addition of myriad toxic chemicals into the environment, the creation of a fossil fuel dependent agricultural system, and the release of tons of greenhouse gases. The shortage of food has not risen high enough in the foodchain for us to feel it, but it is affecting other species already. If one looks at population sustainability as including non-human life forms, we haven’t escaped the boom and bust cycle that Malthus- and indeed, Darwin and Wallace- predicted.

The current “green” movement and the emphasis on reducing greenhouse gases is premised on human comfort/existence as well. Many of the current technological solutions- solar power, high-mileage vehicles- still have enormous environmental impacts and harm the long-term sustainability of human and non-human life on the planet. The footprint of these fixes doesn’t disprove Malthusian theory, it simply projects it outward onto other species. In that way, our technological innovations have already exacerbated the problem.

Perhaps the best solution in “What a way to go” was one that was completely unspoken: the narrator transitions from riding a train to walking along a road to walking on a trail to walking on an untrodden forest floor as he tells the story of his journey. Without being explicit, this move away from technology (and, by extension, away from optimism for technological fixes) reminds the viewer of the true direction towards sustainability: life with less material infrastructure, but a richer human and non-human community. There is no “how-to” for this type of life, just a moment-to-moment commitment to do one’s best.

Unfortunately, as Jensen points out, without a concurrent commitment to dismantling the system that created this artificial abundance, humans doing their best is not enough.

Jensen, D. 2006. Endgame, Volume 1: The problem of civilization. Seven Stories Press, Los Angeles.

University of California Museum of Paleontology. Thomas Malthus (1766-1834).    Accessed 24 April 2010.            

Saturday, August 18, 2012

What's Wrong with this Picture

This image has been making the rounds on social media lately, and certainly, there is a darn good bit of truth to the statement. Solar energy makes the world go 'round, makes life on the planet possible, etc. etc. Sunny days are "nice days" for the most part.

But solar development isn't as pretty as all that, folks, and it's worth thinking critically about an untempered enthusiasm for solar energy. Where, pray tell, are they putting those solar generating stations? If we're talking enormous solar generating stations in the middle of the Mojave desert, you might as well talk about mountain top removal mining. Because once they've bladed over the desert to build these energy developments, the desert (and the ancient soils and ecosystems that occur there) is gone. For good [sic].

Mad props go to groups like Basin and Range Watch for continuing to call out the destruction that industry is wreaking in our western deserts. They are being squished by solar propagandists like desert tortoises under a bulldozer.

More recent 'developments' on the issue can be found here, where our friend Chris Clarke has been tracking the real 'renewability' of renewable energy projects in California. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Name the names, damn it!

We're furious and heartbroken about the Fox Mountain alpha female who the feds decided to kill this week and then decided to imprison instead when the heat turned up (and the phone lines got jammed with public outcry, no doubt). And make no mistake, there are lots of issues with the rationale behind her removal, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's kowtowing to the livestock industry, etc., but you want to know what also and especially has us pissed?
The rancher who lost cattle to the Fox Mountain Pack was compensated for his losses, but Barrett did not know how much he was paid through the government's reimbursement program. Barrett also declined to release the name of the rancher.
Exfuckingcuse me? TAXPAYERS already paid for the dead bovines, paid for the plane that set out on Friday to kill the Foxy Wolf, are paying for the capture and trapping and relocation of her to the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center, and are paying for the wolf recovery program that is only barely successful because we have to keep appeasing the livestock industry through bad-for-wolves management. (Not to mention subsidizing public lands livestock program in general, but don't get us started on that right now!)

So, Ms. Barrett, we really think you oughtta start naming names. If American taxpayers are going to bail out a business and indemnify it against losses, we really do deserve to know which businesses are benefiting.

Especially when it means that four wolf pups are going to lose their mama this week, striking another blow to wolf recovery in the southwest.
UPDATE/CORRECTION 8/13: Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center is paying to capture and transport her to captivity. And don't get us wrong, we're grateful they will. But, the point still stands: Fish and Wildlife Service shouldn't be protecting the rancher or his livestock from wolves. Fish and Wildlife should be protecting the wolves from ranchers and livestock. 

Friday, August 03, 2012

Farmers Hate Whales and So Can You.

Wow. Whoever is advising California's Central Valley Farmers on public relations really ought to be let go. Don't get us wrong, we don't mind that the water-greedy farmers look like grade-A-holes. But seriously, are orcas the species you are going to make the poster child for your hatred of the Endangered Species Act?
Backed by a conservative legal advocacy group based in Sacramento, Fresno County farmer Joe Del Bosque and his allies argue that the population of killer whales often found in Pacific Northwest waters doesn't deserve defending under the Endangered Species Act. Protecting the whales also costs farmers precious water, growers say.
People love whales, even killer whales, so if you are going to balk at ESA protections, you might pick a less charismatic species to target.
"I'm not a biologist," said Del Bosque, who grows almonds, cantaloupes and other crops on his 2,200-acre farm near the rural town of Firebaugh. "I just know we're being affected."
Or, perhaps, a more charismatic farmer to do the targeting.

Read more here:

Read more here: