All posts by The Happy Environmentalist

“The Devil,” East Africa’s Most Wanted Elephant Poacher, Arrested

Known as the “The Devil” by law enforcement who conducted a year-long manhunt for him, Boniface Matthew Mariango was arrested in Tanzania a few days ago. East Africa’s most prolific elephant poacher and illegal ivory trafficker, Mariango was responsible for thousands of elephant deaths.

Earlier last month, task force members of the National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit were also able to arrest “The Queen of Ivory,” Yang Fenglan, who was responsible for a worldwide network of illegal ivory exports. The Devil was her major supplier; he also supplied weapons and vehicles to his own network of poachers. Having these two major players in custody, along with commitments by the U.S. and China to ban ivory, should lead to major breakthroughs in international ivory trafficking.

A documentary film crew was embedded with the task force and will be releasing a film about the manhunt for the Queen of Ivory and The Devil next year.

View the Elephant League post here.

Neurotoxic Chemical to Be Banned from Farm Use

Chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxic pesticide that has been shown to cause brain damage in children, including reduced IQ, delayed development, and memory loss, will be banned under a newly proposed EPA rule. Strong scientific evidence shows that adults are also poisoned by this chemical, whose use in the home has been banned since 2000. Now the EPA has finally responded to a 2007 court order to evaluate the possibility of banning chlorpyrifos altogether.

It will now be prohibited from use on agricultural fields. As a result, it must no longer show up as a residue on food, drift to populated locations, such as schools and homes, or contaminate drinking water.

The EPA will receive comments on this proposed rule until January 5, 2016. After that date, it will finalize the rule and its provisions will go into effect. You can comment on the proposed rule here.

Read more at Earthjustice here.

Kawela Bay on Oahu Permanently Protected

A gorgeous surf spot, Kawela Bay and Kahuku Point, on Oahu’s North Shore has been saved from development. The North Shore Community Land Trust, working with the state of Hawaii and the Trust for Public Land, were able to conserve 630 acres of stunning coastline. In addition to protecting a beautiful bay, the move will also protect important habitat for endangered Hawaiian monk seals and threatened green sea turtles.

The land trust’s director notes that they want to protect about 60,000 more acres on Oahu, of which 20,000 are for sale right now.

The article below also highlights the important work other land trusts are doing on the mainland to protect surf spots, calling out the Peninsula Open Space Trust near Mavericks and the Elkhorn Slough Foundation south of Santa Cruz in California, as well as the North Florida Land Trust on the Atlantic coast.

Read more at Surfline here.

Germany Expected to Reach 33% Renewable Energy This Year

A world leader in switching to renewable energy, Germany is expected to reach 33% this year. Relying on solar, wind, and other renewable sources to supply about a quarter of its energy last year, Germany has brought online much more wind energy this year.

Germany is the fourth-largest economy in the world, after only the U.S., China, and Japan. This means that any move it makes is of global importance.

I also posted recently about how Morocco is set to become the world’s solar superpower, with plans to eventually export power to Europe and maybe even the middle East. The world is changing!

Read the Clean Technica post here.

How Norway Saved (and is Rebuilding) Its Vast Forests

A century ago, Norway’s forests were overharvested and on the decline after centuries of logging for firewood and timber (much of it exported to other European nations). Now, the forest has three times the trees it did 100 years ago, and Norway’s annual tree growth offsets 60% of its carbon emissions (as trees are nature’s best carbon dioxide filters). How has Norway accomplished this? By smart forest planning.

The nation harvests only 50% of its annual tree growth each year. This means that the forests are increasing in size. New policies such as preventing livestock from grazing in harvested areas, which prevents regrowth, as well as an aggressive tree-planting scheme, have contributed to the success.

Challenges remain. Critics complain that Norway is not managing its forests for biodiversity, but is treating them like tree plantations instead. Only a very small percentage of Norwegian forests are protected in national parks and so forth. In addition, far northern climates like Norway’s are among the fastest-warming in the new global climate era. It remains to be seen how well Norway’s trees will adapt to a warmer climate.

I recently posted a story about how Norway is due to complete payment of $1 billion to Brazil for its incredible work in reducing deforestation of the Amazon. What a smart country.

Read more at the BBC here.

Things Are Looking Up for Orcas

Two representatives from California have introduced legislation into the U.S. House of Representatives that would eventually end orca (killer whale) captivity across the nation. Known as the ORCA Act (Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement), the law would ban breeding of captive orcas, capture of wild orcas, and import or export of orcas for public display purposes.

If you support this law, you can call, write, or email (calling is easiest, and probably most effective) your representative and ask him or her to support the ORCA Act. Here is a quick, easy zipcode lookup for your congressperson.

This comes on the heels of other good news:

SeaWorld San Diego just announced that it will be ending its captive orca shows (SeaWorld San Antonio and Orlando will continue their orca shows for now). The whales will continue to be held for display, and will likely perform in a show that is more conservation-oriented, and not based on tricks. Activists would like to see the orcas released from captivity altogether. But this is a good start, indicating that Sea World is starting to bow to the public pressure against its orca shows that has increased since the release of the film Blackfish in 2013. (Thanks to Netflix for streaming it!)

I recently posted that California Coastal Commission approved an expansion of the San Diego SeaWorld’s orca tank while at the same time, banning SeaWorld from breeding its captive orcas. If this rule stands (SeaWorld has announced plans to sue the Coastal Commission), then the 11 orcas currently in captivity in San Diego will be the last.

I also posted that endangered orcas off the coast of Washington state are in the middle of a baby boom, with six newborns and, apparently, several more pregnant mamas in the group. Of course, these new babies will need to eat once they’re weaned off their mothers’ milk, so we need to make sure that their favorite fish, salmon, is abundant. A good step would be to take down four dams that are blocking some of the best inland salmon habitat in the U.S. This not a short-term goal, but since orcas can live to be 100 years old or more, we must think ahead!

Read the Seattle Post-Intelligencer article here.