Category Archives: Activism

Tompkins Conservation Supports the Global Deal for Nature

In late 2020 in Kunming, China, world leaders will gather to set new targets to protect nature under the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity. The last global targets, set in 2010, were simply not ambitious enough, and we have seen the consequences. According to the Living Planet Report (2018) in the past few decades animal populations have declined by 60%, one-fifth of the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed, and we’ve lost one-half of the world’s shallow water coral reefs. Only about 15% of the world’s lands and 5% of the world’s oceans are now formally protected.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

A new United Nations report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has been compiled by 500 scientists and experts and shows an alarming trend that could undermine life as we know it on Earth: “The loss of trees, grasslands and wetlands is costing the equivalent of about 10% (or $8 trillion) of the world’s annual gross domestic product (GDP), driving species extinctions, intensifying climate change and pushing the planet toward a sixth mass species extinction.” It’s clear that we must reverse this trend, and the time is now.

Credit: Global Deal For Nature

Credit: Global Deal For Nature

In 2017, 49 scientists authored a landmark paper, “An Ecoregion-Based Approach to Protecting Half the Terrestrial Realm” that called for a Global Deal for Nature (GDN) — a companion to the Paris Climate Agreement — to promote increased habitat protection and restoration, national and regional conservation strategies, and the empowerment of indigenous peoples to protect their sovereign lands. The goal of such a deal would be to protect half the terrestrial realm to halt the extinction crisis while sustaining human livelihoods. A key concept in the paper is that each of the world’s 846 terrestrial ecoregions needs its own plan shared by the countries whose boundaries overlap its geophysical extent.

Credit: Global Deal For Nature

Credit: Global Deal For Nature

In April 2019, many of these scientists published a new paper called “A Global Deal for Nature: Guiding Principles, Milestones, and Targets” that explains why protecting half the Earth is needed, and presents a science-driven plan to save the diversity and abundance of life on Earth. It builds upon many scientific proposals for protecting key biodiversity areas and the latest climate science, calling for a milestone of at least 30% of lands protected by 2030 with an additional 20% in climate stabilization areas. It is also the first to include land, freshwater, and marine ecoregions in one global plan.

A petition launched by One Earth, an initiative of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, with Avaaz, RESOLVE, National Geographic Society, Tompkins Conservation and other environmental groups urges nations to agree to protect half the Earth to help solve both biodiversity loss and the climate crisis.

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STATEMENT FROM TOMPKINS CONSERVATION REGARDING THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S ANNOUNCEMENT ON THE PARIS CLIMATE ACCORD

JPLotak-1190861

Photo: Justin Lotak

The people of Tompkins Conservation, who are working in three countries on two continents, are appalled by the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw U.S. participation in the Paris agreement. While insufficient to address the climate crisis, the Paris accord is a useful first step toward bolder, binding action that moves human society toward a low-carbon energy future.

Beyond the richly deserved condemnation from around the world, the Trump administration’s action deserves to be analyzed, ridiculed, and contrasted with the leadership shown by other national governments around the globe. In Chile and Argentina, where our national park creation and rewilding efforts are helping build resiliency to climate change, Presidents Michelle Bachelet and Mauricio Macri, respectively, have articulated their strong commitment to the growing international movement to address climate change.

More important than words, however, the Bachelet and Macri governments have taken decisive action in recent months to expand protected areas that sustain vital wildlife habitat and sequester carbon. Both of these leaders have explicitly drawn the connection between habitat conservation and their nations’ commitments to mitigate climate change, understanding that the crucial task of transitioning toward a clean energy economy is only part of confronting the climate crisis.

At Tompkins Conservation, we believe that the willful ignorance of some political leaders can and will be trumped by the concerted actions of individuals, governments, and nongovernmental organizations across the planet who are working for a durable future—for all life on Earth. We are more committed than ever to use our energy, expertise, and resources to advance hopeful, durable projects that protect wild nature, benefit human communities, and help minimize climate chaos. With every hectare protected and species recovery effort implemented, we are acting with our hearts and hands to create a world with adequate habitat for all and a stable climate that supports flourishing natural and human communities.

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37,500-acre El Rincón donated to Expand Perito Moreno National Park

In one of the largest land donations in Argentine history, Doug and Kris Tompkins donated Estancia El Rincón to the national parks system of Argentina today, in a formal reception in Buenos Aires. In the northwest area of the Santa Cruz Province, the 37,500-acre El Rincón will expand Perito Moreno National Park. El Rincon encompasses the Lácteo River Valley, which provides access to the dramatic—and still-unclimbed—south face of San Lorenzo, Patagonia’s second-highest peak. Its granite walls and iconic pyramidal form make it the “Everest” of the region.  Now, climbers and hikers from around the world have the opportunity to explore this valley, and try their luck at this iconic peak, if they dare.

Doug Tompkins first visited El Rincón in 1992 to scout out routes on San Lorenzo’s south face, considered one of the greatest challenges of the Patagonian Andes. He recalls his first encounter with this property: “I first visited Perito Moreno National Park in 1992, to scout the south face of Cerro San Lorenzo. My plan was to return later to make a first attempt at this wall, the largest and possibly most challenging of all in the Patagonian Andes. We entered the park from the south and began making our way north toward the peak, crossing the Lácteo River Valley, which lies outside the park boundaries. To our surprise, we found that the most spectacular area of the zone, for some reason, had been excluded from the National Park. My climbing partners and I had a clear feeling that this property must be purchased and integrated into the National Park. A year and a half later, I had the opportunity to buy Estancia El Rincón, which I did with the express intention of donating it someday into the national parks system.”

As Kris Tompkins said this morning, “This donation has been in the works for some time, largely because it took a long time to hammer out the details of future use and zoning within this new section of the park. We finally feel secure that our vision for this land is permanently designated through the legal donation documents–and off it goes. It’s a great day for us.”

The expansion of Perito Moreno National Park follows in the footsteps of Conservacion Patagonica’s donation of Estancia Monte Leon to Argentine National Parks to establish Monte Leon National Park, as well as the Conservation Land Trust’s contribution of private lands to create Corcovado National Park in Chile. This donation today represents a key milestone in our plan to contribute all our conservation properties into the national parks system of their respective countries.

We are thrilled to share this news and hope that one day you’ll have the opportunity to visit Perito Moreno National Park, surely one of Argentina’s most beautiful national parks.

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Confronting our energy reality: The campaign for energy literacy and FDE’s latest book

“What magic, or monster, lurks behind the light switch and gas pump? Where does the seemingly limitless energy that fuels modern society really come from – and is that perception of limitlessness delusional?”

The latest large-format book, a collaboration between the Foundation for Deep Ecology and Post Carbon Institute.

Over the years, the Foundation for Deep Ecology (one of the numerous organizations and initiatives that comprise Tompkins Conservation) has helped build the intellectual infrastructure of the conservation movement through grantmaking and an activism-oriented book publishing program. The latest effort is a new large-format book— ENERGY: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth—and a related campaign to promote “energy literacy.” A collaboration between the Foundation for Deep Ecology (FDE) and the Post Carbon Institute (PCI), ENERGY features essays from leading writers in the field accompanied by hard-hitting photographs.  The goal? Illustrate the true costs—ecological, social, economic–of our out-of-control energy consumption.

Tar development sands, Alberta, Canada. (George Wuerthner)

As Richard Heinberg, contributing author to ENERGY and senior fellow at PCI, notes: “[This is] really the most important moment in all of human history; if we consciously and deliberately move away from our dependence on fossil fuels, we have the opportunity of reinventing civilization. If we don’t, civilization probably won’t survive.”

Edited by Foundation for Deep Ecology staffers Tom Butler and George Wuerthner, ENERGY is the educational centerpiece of PCI’s Energy Reality Campaign. Now in full swing, the campaign promotes energy literacy with a strong emphasis on the issue of how much energy we use, in contrast to the oft-promoted alternative energy sources. Central to the campaign is challenging the notion that the world is infinite and can support endless economic growth. As Heinberg says, “We’ve gotten ourselves into this bizarre situation where if we do what’s actually good for us, which is to become more self-sufficient, to consume less and to share more, we hurt the economy.”

Gas refinery in Bloomfield, New Mexico. (George Wuerthner)

Together, FDE and PCI are distributing upwards of 4,500 copies of ENERGY to environmental NGOs working on energy and climate issues, targeted policymakers and thought-leaders, and others identified as influencers of energy conservation by partner organizations. A text-only volume suitable for course adoption, The ENERGY Reader, was published simultaneously and has been widely distributed to academic institutions and professors around the country. The book’s content is also available on the campaign website and through digital editions.

Select essays from the book have been released bi-monthly over the course of the campaign, are shared via social media, and are sent out to targeted email lists by topic. Photographs from the book have been shared with a wide range of social media sites and partner NGOs. Additionally, PCI just released the first of many shareable image decks; over the course of this coming year, PCI will publish image deck photo-essays on each of the issue areas covered in ENERGY, to be widely promoted on partner Facebook pages and Twitter.

Mountaintop-removal coal mining, Appalachia. (George Wuerthner)

Additionally, PCI has begun work on a public art campaign to further engage the public in energy literacy. Tod Brilliant, Creative Director at PCI, explains, “This has been an incredible opportunity to deeply engage with and educate what is arguably the most influential community: propagandists aka artists and creatives. While we always involve artists in our projects at PCI, this time thanks to FDE we’re working with them more intimately than ever before. By showcasing creative interpretations of academic materials, the Creative Community Outreach phase of the Energy Reality campaign will, I think, have great impact and reach a broader, more diverse audience.”

We want this campaign to have the greatest impact possible — fostering widespread energy literacy is crucial if we are to transition toward a future energy economy that supports beauty and biodiversity, assumes a steady-state economy (not perpetual growth), and is anchored by appropriately scaled renewables. Please check out some of these links, spread the word, and even request a copy of the book!

Additional links and interviews:

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Town pride with paint: Village beautification speeds along in El Amarillo

Where’s the center of the world? Signs tell us that it lies in the small village of El Amarillo, at the southern entrance of Pumalin Park. On the Carretera Austral just a few kilometers south of the volcano-impacted town of Chaiten, El Amarillo is becoming a hub for tourists to Pumalin—and a pleasant place to live for its 100 or so residents.

Eight years ago, the Conservation Land Trust launched a village beautification project in El Amarillo, spearheaded by young local architect Marcela Ojeda. At the time, the village consisted of a few dozen houses, almost all rundown. A few small markets sold basic goods, and a few houses had rooms for travelers to rent, but for the most part, tourists had to stop in Chaiten or further south on the Carretera Austral to find services.  Although in a prime location—next to Pumalin, with phenomenal views of Volcan Michimahuida and the Tabiques Mountains—El Amarillo had not developed much of its ecotourism potential. Visitors would zoom past on the road, and many younger residents aimed to move away to find other opportunities.

El Amarillo’s natural beauty; here, looking toward Michimahuida

Since 2005, the village beautification project has worked with many families to put their houses in order, with paint, repairs, yard work, and landscaping. The Pumalin project sponsors the initial fix-up of houses, with the owners agreeing to cover maintenance and repairs in the future. The team works with families on the design and schedule of the repairs, and asks for their participation when possible.

A bit of paint, carpentry and yard work can go a long way. Many of the seemingly unredeemable structures in town have been reborn as full-of-character homes with simple but well-planned facelifts. With help from volunteers from around the world, over a dozen houses in the village have been transformed.

A home made of an old shipping container, transformed into a cute country cottage

Meanwhile, the team has designed and constructed a new supermarket and gas station in town, to put El Amarillo on the map of tourist services in the region.

Running a gas station never topped the list of projects for conservationists before, but given the distance to the next place to refill, the station offers an important service, and draw for the community.

The supermarket carries a different variety of goods from those offered in the preexisting markets: hardware, organic vegetables, woolen goods, books, and souvenirs, among other items.

The basic idea of the project, as Doug explains it, is to build house pride through simple fix-ups, painting, and landscaping. House pride extends to pride for community, as the whole village becomes more orderly and pleasant, and an appealing destination for visitors. As the foreground—houses, yards, and common spaces—grows more beautiful, locals and visitors alike can admire and savor the spectacular natural setting of the village, gaining respect for the wilderness that surrounds them.

Explaining the big idea of El Amarillo to visitors

Care for house and connection to community grow into responsibility to place and land.  Without preaching ecological values, the village cleanup effort improves locals’ living conditions and economic opportunities while encouraging them to embrace the area’s remarkable natural surroundings.

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