by Scott Smith, FoA Communications Director
Friends of Animals has long been a fierce fighter for the rights of nonhuman animals, free-living and domestic. FoA places critical habitat, wildlife protection and veganism at the core of its animal advocacy. We also address the biggest contributors to climate change caused by human activity – deforestation, animal agriculture and fossil fuels.
Now, a major new international report published June 10 by 50 of the world’s leading biodiversity and climate experts shows that unprecedented changes in climate and biodiversity, driven by human activities, have combined and increasingly threaten nature, human lives, livelihoods and well-being around the world. The message of the workshop report is that neither crisis will be successfully resolved unless both are tackled together.
“Human-caused climate change is increasingly threatening nature and its contributions to people, including its ability to help mitigate climate change. The warmer the world gets, the less food, drinking water and other key contributions nature can make to our lives, in many regions,” said Prof. Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chair of the Scientific Steering Committee.
“Changes in biodiversity, in turn, affect climate, especially through impacts on nitrogen, carbon and water cycles,” he said. “The evidence is clear: a sustainable global future for people and nature is still achievable, but it requires transformative change with rapid and far-reaching actions of a type never before attempted, building on ambitious emissions reductions. Solving some of the strong and apparently unavoidable trade-offs between climate and biodiversity will entail a profound collective shift of individual and shared values concerning nature.”
Friends of Animals wholeheartedly supports this new, holistic approach to combatting the inescapably related threats of climate change and biodiversity loss.
“We’ve long acted with the belief that the well-being of wildlife and that of the earth itself are inextricably linked,” says Priscilla Feral, president of Darien, CT-based Friends of Animals. “That fact drives many of our legal initiatives and awareness campaigns. The key step in solving problems is in first agreeing what the facts are and then coming up with effective, achievable solutions. This report gives us a clearer road map in how to address both crises together.”
Staffed by a team with over 50 years of legal experience combined and 80 years of experience in the animal advocacy and environmental fields, the FoA’s Wildlife Law Program fills a niche
between animal and environmental advocacy. Animal advocates often fail to fully utilize the array of local, state, federal and international environmental laws to protect the rights of animals. Environmental advocates often utilize these laws but do so to achieve broad environmental objectives that may not always protect the rights of free-living animals.
FoA is also gratified to see that the report, which was issued by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has received global attention.
“The report identified actions to simultaneously fight the climate and nature crises, including expanding nature reserves and restoring – or halting the loss of – ecosystems rich in species and carbon, such as forests, natural grasslands and kelp forests,” writes Damian Carrington, environment editor for The Guardian.
“Food systems cause a third of all greenhouse gas emissions, and more sustainable farming is another important action, helped by the ending of destructive subsidies and rich nations eating less meat and cutting food waste,” Carrington adds.
“Animal agriculture not only emits 10 to 100 times more greenhouse gases per unit product than plant-based foods, they also use 10 to 100 times more land,” said Prof. Pete Smith of the University of Aberdeen. “So more plant-based diets would mean more environmentally friendly farming and then there would be more land on which to apply nature-based solutions.”
Catrin Einhorn, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who currently covers wildlife and extinction for The New York Times, writes: “For the last couple of decades, the climate crisis has largely overshadowed the biodiversity crisis, perhaps because its threat seemed more dire. But the balance may be shifting. Scientists warn that declines in biodiversity can lead to ecosystem collapse, threatening humanity’s food and water supply.
“By protecting and restoring nature, the report said, we can safeguard biodiversity, help limit warming, improve human well being and even find protection from the consequences of climate change, like intensified flooding and storms.”
Leaving nature in charge
One example of how Friends of Animals seeks to solve these intertwined crises can be found at the Lyman Coleman Wildlife Sanctuary in Owego, N.Y., which is owned by Friends of Animals.
The property officially became a protected open space for wildlife back in 1979, when Edith Coleman, who could no longer care for the property, donated it to FoA in honor of her late father, Lyman Coleman, from whom she inherited it. The land remains entirely open space, free from development, hunting, trapping, fishing and ranching, a place where nature is in charge of nature and biodiversity is celebrated.
The sanctuary is comprised of five different habitat types: open fields, orchard, second growth woodland, old growth woodland and riverine. These habitats are ideal for bluebirds, several species of owls, rabbits, foxes, deer, bear, coyotes, woodchucks, mice and raccoons.
FoA’s efforts to protect wildlife and their habitat extend all the way to the Ferlo region of Senegal in West Africa. FoA has worked with the National Parks Directorate to restore the scimitar-horned oryx to the Ferlo North Wildlife Reserve and to transform the damaged ecosystem there. In 2000, the statuesque antelope was officially classified as extinct in the wild.
An important part of the project was erecting fencing to protect the land from further degradation of livestock and establishing water-efficient community gardens as a new source of nutrition for villagers. If changes don’t continue, the entire region will fall victim to desertification, and the people living there will be destitute or forced from what was once a robust, sustainable landscape with an abundance of diverse plants and animals.
Senegalese rangers have been documenting the recovery of the habitat and now count 77 species of herbaceous plants, plus another 36 species of woody plants. In 2003, eight oryxes were transported to the Ferlo. Today there are now 550 oryxes.
The fragile population of red-fronted gazelles is also increasing, as are the reintroduced Dorcas gazelles and mhorr dama gazelles. An effort to reintroduce the red-necked ostrich, the largest living bird, is also under way, as well as the African spurred tortoise.
“The Ferlo project is comprehensive, meaning that it addresses all major needs of all stakeholders, whether Fulani villagers, park rangers, wild animal species or livestock,” says Bill Clark, FoA senior policy advisor. “But beyond that, because the same dynamics or persistent overgrazing and desertification have degraded most of Africa’s Sahel, and because of this the Sahel’s biological diversity has suffered enormously, it is important to anticipate that the Ferlo project can be used as a model for other Sahel communities, from Senegal clear across to Sudan.”
Feeling the effects of climate change
The effects of climate change hit closer to home for FoA earlier this year. In February, the Texas-based sanctuary that FoA manages, Primarily Primates, and much of the state, were gripped by a historic Arctic freeze, blackouts and fuel shortages. PPI staff, aided by volunteers from around the community, battled heroically to ensure the safety of the hundreds of chimpanzees, monkey, lemurs and other animals in their care. Some volunteers opened their homes to provide temporarily shelter for scores of animals. Others rushed to deliver generators, space heaters, blankets, gasoline, electrical cords, water, food and critical items to the sanctuary.
As reported by earth.org, the Texas deep freeze began in early January, “when air in the atmosphere above the Arctic warmed suddenly, possibly as a result of advancing climate change, causing a weakening of the polar vortex, a collection of winds that keeps cold air at the North Pole. Judah Cohen, director of seasonal forecasting at Atmospheric and Environmental Research, says that climate change has increased the frequency with which the polar vortex weakens and allows the cold air to spill over into other regions.”
The donations to PPI that poured in from around the world are now being used to bolster the 78-acre property’s infrastructure with permanent, commercial-grade generators so Primarily Primates can weather future storms without evacuations.
“Protecting wildlife and halting global warming go hand in hand,” says FoA’s Feral.
To read a synopsis of the IPBES/IPCC workshop report on Biodiversity and Climate Change, click here.
For more information on how Friends of Animals is working to protect animals and their habitats around the world, and to join in support, please click here.