5 questions you’ve wanted to ask about the Paris Agreement

© Yann Caradec/Flickr Creative Commons

The Eiffel Tower illuminated for the U.N. climate talks in 2015. (© Yann Caradec/Flickr Creative Commons)

Editor’s note: Nearly 18 months ago, the international community came together in Paris to sign the largest global agreement on climate change to date — including a strong endorsement of nature’s role in addressing climate change. With the Paris Agreement back in the news, Human Nature takes a look at five things you need to know about the historic international accord.

I’m in favor of action on climate change, but isn’t there a tradeoff between following the Paris Agreement and growing the economy?

Quite the opposite. Business leaders agree that the Paris Agreement is good for the American economy. In a series of open letters to the president, chief executives from many of America’s largest corporations — from Apple to Cargill to Coca-Cola to Walmart — have advocated for continued American participation in the Paris Agreement. Why? A strong Paris Agreement means that all countries will be working toward the same climate goal, leveling the playing field for American manufacturers and creating new markets abroad for climate-friendly technology like solar panels and energy-efficient appliances. Corporate chiefs also argue that the agreement provides needed certainty for planning long-term investments and will reduce climate-related risks. In fact, acting now on climate change is our best insurance policy against the most harmful impacts of climate change.

We have seen this before. When the world agreed in the late 1980s to phase out the use of ozone-depleting chemicals, American chemical manufacturers led the charge to develop ozone-safe replacements, and their business benefited as a result. Today, American companies are poised to lead on climate action worldwide, and the Paris Agreement represents an opportunity to grow their businesses. Continue reading

The most valued anti-poaching equipment? It may surprise you

© Charlie Shoemaker

An anti-poaching unit patrols in Kenya’s Chyulu Hills. (© Charlie Shoemaker)

In recent years, the battle against wildlife poaching in Africa has taken a high-tech turn. Night-vision goggles, body armor and unmanned aerial vehicles have all become part of the modern ranger armament. But for rangers on the ground, their actual requests are often more quotidian — starting with a good pair of socks.

“It is not always the fancy kit that rangers need,” said Keith Roberts, executive director for wildlife trafficking at Conservation International (CI). “It is rather the basics that can make all the difference.” Continue reading

Pope’s message to Trump: Protect our planet

Pope Francis

At their meeting today, Pope Francis presented President Trump with a copy of his 2015 encyclical on the environment, “On Care For Our Common Home.” (© European Union 2014 – European Parliament)

Editor’s note: Today, Pope Francis met with U.S. President Donald Trump to discuss peacemaking and climate change. Among the gifts the leader of the Catholic faith gave President Trump was a copy of his Laudato Si’the 2015 encyclical on the environment that points to human activity as the main cause of climate change, warns of the “ever more severe droughts, floods, fires and extreme weather events” that lay in store and reminds developed nations of their duty to take action.   

Calling out climate change deniers, skeptics and those that fail to act, the pope implored everyone, regardless of faith, to “take note of the need for changes in lifestyle and changes in methods of production and consumption to combat this warming.

Conservation International’s stance on climate change hasn’t wavered in the two years since the pope published his encyclical. In 2015, CI’s CEO, Peter Seligmann, wrote about his hope that the pope’s message marked a watershed moment in environmentalism.

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In a country where coffee is king, sustainability is brewing

Rows of shade-grown coffee.

Rows of shade-grown coffee. (© S&D Coffee and Tea/Lucia Hernandez)

Editor’s note: Since the mid-1800s, coffee has been central to Nicaragua’s culture and economy. As of 2015, the crop represented 16 percent of the country’s total exports and generated employment for more than 330,000 people — about six percent of the Central American country’s population. As global demand for the beverage grows and climate change threatens to cut suitable growing area in half, Conservation International (CI) is working with partners in the coffee industry to find innovative ways to make coffee the world’s first sustainable agricultural product.

CI’s sustainable coffee markets director, Raina Lang, traveled to Nicaragua with staff from McDonald’s, a CI partner to learn more about the local challenges facing farmers and the efforts of McDonald’s coffee roasters — the experts that source the company’s coffee from farmers — to address them.

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The 4 stories you’ve got to read this Endangered Species Day

Red panda

Red pandas, such as this one feeding on leaves at the Panda Breeding and Research Center in Chengdu, China, are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. (© Piotr Naskrecki)

Editor’s note: Of the 41,415 species on the International Union for Concerned Scientists’ Red List — the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species — 16,306 of them are classified as endangered species threatened with extinction. What’s wiping them out? Wildlife trafficking, habitat loss, a changing climate — primarily, humans

But getting listed as an endangered species isn’t a lost cause. Species recovery is possible — and a critical piece of achieving it is conservation work, including protecting areas for habitat. In honor of Endangered Species Day, here are four stories that look at the role of conservation — and of Conservation International — in saving species across the globe. 

  • Scroll down to the end for a photo gallery featuring endangered species.

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Demystifying the seafood label: Where your seafood actually comes from

A fisher in the Solomon Islands.

A fisher in the Solomon Islands. (© Filip Milovac/ Flickr Creative Commons)

Editor’s note: In the lead up to the U.N. Ocean Conference June 5-9, we’re launching an occasional series called Sea the Future, offering expert insight into the latest oceans news. Today’s topic? The mystery behind seafood labels. 

The seafood you buy comes from either a fishing business or an aquaculture (fish farming) operation. What you buy has implications for the health of the ocean, the livelihood of the fisher or aquaculture farmer whose catch you did or didn’t buy, the profits of the commercial business or aquaculture operation — even the number of fish we have left in the sea.

If that feels overwhelming — all you wanted was some shrimp, right? — you’re not alone. Human Nature sat down with Jack Kittinger, Conservation International’s (CI) senior director of fisheries and aquaculture, to break it all down.

Question: How has aquaculture changed over the years? What is aquaculture’s relationship to wild-catch seafood?

Answer: I think most people don’t realize a what an important role aquaculture plays. When I was a kid, aquaculture was about 10 percent of the global seafood supply; it’s now supplying more than half the global seafood supply. That’s a dramatic jump. It has been the fastest growing food production sector on the planet for the past couple of decades. With half of the global seafood coming from aquaculture, we obviously have to increase the sustainability of how we are farming seafood. It has a huge impact in some places, but it can also provide a monumental benefit in terms of the livelihoods it supports and the food and benefits it provides to global economies.

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Scan and serve: New tool traces seafood from ocean to plate

QR code

Restaurant patrons in Brazil can scan a QR code to learn about the source of their seafood as part of CI Brazil’s Pesca+Sustentável program. (© Conservation International/photo by Priscila Steffen)

Editor’s note: The global seafood chain can be as murky as the ocean’s depths — in fact, one in five pieces of seafood is falsely labeled. In Brazil, Conservation International (CI) is pioneering a smartphone-friendly tool that traces seafood from ocean to plate, giving consumers the power to make sustainable choices with a few finger swipes.

Human Nature sat down with Guilherme Dutra, marine program director for CI Brazil, to discuss the pioneering seafood traceability program, Pesca+Sustentável (in English, Fisheries+Sustainable). Winner of the 2014 Google Brazil Social Impact Challenge, this initiative brings innovative technology directly to fishing communities in Brazil to reshape the seafood chain from the water to the consumer’s plate.

Question: How does Pesca+Sustentável work?

Answer: Pesca+Sustentável is a traceability system based on QR codes. The QR code is printed on a piece of paper that accompanies a restaurant menu. Customers open the QR app on their smartphone and scan the code, which brings them to the program website to find out more about where their seafood came from. This way, the conscious consumer can easily choose healthy and sustainable seafood that comes from local fishing communities, benefiting the whole seafood chain.

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In Galápagos, lobster fishers make unlikely — but effective — conservationists

Spiny lobsters

Spiny lobsters at market in Galápagos. (© Molly Bergen)

In Galápagos, lobster fishers make unlikely — but effective — conservationists

For tourists visiting Puerto Ayora, the cobblestoned town where most human residents of the Galápagos Islands live, lunch at the tiny open-air fish market on the harbor is a unique treat. As sea lions and pelicans beg for fish scraps at the feet of the fishmongers chopping and bagging the day’s catch, diners point at the seafood they want, and someone tosses it on the grill.

Many choose a local specialty: red or green spiny lobster, whose live specimens wait on the pavement (often under the watchful eye of a fisher’s child) until they are sold. Few realize how close these species recently came to being wiped out from the Galápagos — a disappearance that could have caused a chain reaction across the islands’ spectacular yet fragile ecosystems.

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‘We are not tourist attractions’: Indigenous leaders assert their voices in conservation

© Aaron Joel Santos/Aurora Photos

A Samburu warrior in traditional dress, Kenya. Indigenous peoples are key partners in conservation efforts around the world. (© Aaron Joel Santos/Aurora Photos)

Editor’s note: Today marks the last day of the United Nations conference on indigenous issues in New York, a session that marks the 10th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. While this historic milestone affirmed indigenous peoples’ rights on a global scale for the first time, the world’s indigenous groups — stewards of nearly a quarter of Earth’s land and the vast majority of its wildlife — still face critical challenges.   

With that in mind, Conservation International helped create an Indigenous Advisory Group to collaborate directly with global indigenous leaders in strengthening conservation efforts alongside the communities that rely on nature the most. At a recent meeting of the group, Human Nature sat down with six experts — including Joenia Wapichana, Brazil’s first indigenous lawyer — to get their perspectives on indigenous-centered conservation.

Question: What is the greatest conservation challenge facing indigenous peoples today?

Ole Kaunga, Kenya: Right now, there’s a lot of conflict between conserved areas and access to resources for cultural and traditional reasons. In order to be complementary and not competitive, conservation needs to strike a critical balance between indigenous rights to natural resources and conservation. We need community-led and -owned initiatives to reduce conflicts and dispel the notion that conservation is a way to dispossess people of their lands.

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A 54-year conservation journey

Peter Seligmann

Peter Seligmann in Washington, D.C. (© Jeff Gale)

Editor’s note: Peter Seligmann is a giant of international conservation. As co-founder, chairman and outgoing CEO of Conservation International (CI), Seligmann has grown CI from an idea into one of the largest and most active environmental nonprofits worldwide. Over 30 years, CI has supported the conservation of over 600 million hectares (nearly 1.5 billion acres) of some of the Earth’s most critical lands and waters across 77 countries. These protections amount to the size of Indonesia, Mexico and the Democratic Republic of the Congo combined — a legacy visible from space. This week, Seligmann announced the new leadership team that will carry forward this work. In this post, he looks back on his career and points the way toward new horizons for protecting nature for the well-being of people everywhere.

My own conservation journey and the seeds of my determination to make a difference outside of government began in 1963. In July of that year, I worked in Wyoming on a ranch. My job was to irrigate pasture, which meant getting wet and dirty and waiting for water to flow from one ditch to the next. It was in those moments of waiting that I began to watch birds and insects, listen to the wind, and taste the sweetness of the tall grass. I knew then that I was hooked on nature.

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