Repair ecosystems

On this page:

  1. Peak biodiversity and peak ecosystem recap
  2. Count it!
  3. Park it! Support various parks and reservations. Which one will you sponsor?
  4. Ark it! Grab the threatened critter and stick it in a modern day Noah’s ark!
  5. Sign it! Join an online group and get regular petitions you can sign.
  6. Monetise it!  Support groups that reinvent local economies to repair local ecologies.
  7. Patrol it with drones!
  8. Repair it with robots!?

1. Peak biodiversity and peak ecosystem recap

As we saw on the previous biodiversity page, the over hunting of predators, over logging of forests, and introduction of plague animals and weeds are wiping out various little plants and critters and even larger animals, and this threatens to suddenly crash various ecosystem services that most economies are completely dependent on! So what can we do about it?

2. Count it!

The first step is admitting we have a problem. Getting real scientific data is essential. We need data about the state of the environment. We need to know what drives people to use and abuse resources in different locations. How are they living with their natural ecosystems? What about their business and urban environment? What can we do better? That’s one of the jobs of the World Resources Institute.

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The World Resources Institute ecosystems projects:

  • Climate, Energy & Transport. Protect the global climate system from further harm due to emissions of greenhouse gases and help humanity and the natural world adapt to unavoidable climate change.
  • Governance & Access: Guarantee public access to information and decisions regarding natural resources and the environment.
  • Markets & Enterprise: Harness markets and enterprise to expand economic opportunity and protect the environment.
  • People & Ecosystems: Reverse rapid degradation of ecosystems and assure their capacity to provide humans with needed goods and services.[2]

3. Park it! Support various parks and reservations. Which one will you sponsor?

Animal expert Laura Klappenbach lists her 168810211 organisations that work to save animals and ecosystems. Read through and pick one to support. Pick one that moves you. For example, my daughter loves tigers. They are her favourite animal, and the idea of them being wiped out horrifies her. In a world with so many legitimate biodiversity concerns, that’s as good a reason as any for me to pick an organisation to support! You may have other hobbies, preferences, family customs or even holiday destinations that you want to support. The choice is up to you. There are thousands of environmental and conservation groups to support, but the list below is pretty good. (Even if some of them might need you to talk to them about supporting nuclear power!)

The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy is my top pick among the many wildlife conservation organizations available today. The Nature Conservancy works with local communities, businesses, and individuals to protect over 100 million acres of land around the world. In doing so, The Nature Conservancy preserves entire wildlife communities and the rich species diversity that inhabits those lands. It’s a wholistic approach, one that I feel is vital to the health of our planet.

Among The Nature Conservancy’s more innovative conservation approaches is the debt-for-nature swaps. Such transactions ensure biodiversity conservation in exchange for debt owed by a developing country. Such debt-for-nature programs have been successful in many countries including Panama, Peru, and Guatamala.

How they spend their money:

  • 80.2% of expenses go towards conservation projects
  • 11.4% of expenses go towards admininstration
  • 8.3% of expenses go towards fundraising

World Wildlife Fund

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The giant panda is the WWF flagship species. Photo © Jay Schipper / Getty Images.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is among my top picks since their work is aimed at protecting biodiversity on a global scale. The WWF works with multilateral and bilateral agencies to promote sustainable development in the world’s poorest countries. Its aims are threefold—to protect natural areas and wild populations, to minimize pollution, and to promote efficient, sustainable use of natural resources.

The WWF focuses their efforts at multiple levels, starting with wildlife, habitats and local communities and expanding up through governments and global networks. The WWF views the planet as a single, complex web of relationships between species, the environment, and human institutions such as government and global markets.

How they spend their money:

  • 79.4% of expenses go towards conservation projects
  • 7.3% of expenses go towards admininstration
  • 13.1% of expenses go towards fundraising

Natural Resources Defence Council

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The NRDC was instrumental in obtaining protectionfor polar bears under the Endangered Species Act.Photo © Danita Delimont / Getty Images.

 The Natural Resources Defense Council(NRDC) is a superb complement to any portfolio of conservation organization memberships. The NRDC is an environmental action organization that consists of 350 lawyers, scientists, and other professionals and commands a membership of about 1.3 million people. The NRDC uses the law, science, and their wide network of members and activists to protect wildlife and habitats around the globe.

The issues the NRDC focuses on include curbing global warming, creating clean energy, preserving wildlands, restoring ocean habitats, stopping the spread of toxic chemicals, and working towards greener living in China.

How they spend their money:

  • 83.2% of expenses go towards conservation projects
  • 6.0% of expenses go towards admininstration
  • 10.7% of expenses go towards fundraising

The Sierra Club

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The Sierra Club’s founder, John Muir helped save the Yosemite Valley and was an instrumental force behind the establishment of Yosemite National Park. Photo © Tracy Barbutes / Getty Images.

The Sierra Club was founded by naturalist John Muir in 1892. The Sierra Club is a grassroots organization that works to protect ecological communities, encourage smart energy solutions, and to create an enduring legacy for America’s wildernesses. Its current initiatives include coal alternatives, limiting greenhouse emissions, clean energy, green transport, and protecting wildlife communities.

The Sierra Club also is involved in issues such as environmental justice, clean air, clean water, global population, toxic waste, and responsible trade. The Sierra Club offers a variety of outings for its members ranging from backpacking and camping to biking, canoeing, and rafting. It also supports vibrant local chapters that enable club members to become involved in conservation work in their area.

How they spend their money:

  • 87.3% of expenses go towards conservation projects
  • 3.3% of expenses go towards admininstration
  • 9.2% of expenses go towards fundraising

International Crane Foundation

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Sandhill cranes are among the crane species the International Crane Foundation helps to save. Photo © Jack Milchanowski / Getty Images.

 The International Crane Foundation (ICF) was established by founders George Archibald and Ron Sauey in 1973 on a horse farm in Baraboo, Wisconsin. The ICF works around the world to protect cranes and the habitats on which they depend. Although they focus on cranes, their work is valuable on a wider scale, giving insights into endangered species management, wetland ecology, habitat restoration, and the critical need for international cooperation.

The ICF provides education about cranes on three levels—local, national, and international. In addition to educating people about cranes, the ICF also conducts captive breeding and reintroduction of cranes into the wild.

How they spend their money:

  • 88.2% of expenses go towards conservation projects
  • 6.1% of expenses go towards admininstration
  • 5.5% of expenses go towards fundraising

Friends of Haleakala National Park

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The nene goose is Hawaii’s state bird and is one of the endangered species that benefits from the work of the Friends of Haleakala National Park. Photo © Ann Cecil / Getty Images.

 The Friends of Haleakala National Parkconservation organization is a personal favorite of mine because they support a wide range of conservation projects to protect Hawaii’s unique Haleakala National Park. Their efforts include educational activities, cultural projects, research and service projects. The Friends of Haleakala National Park strives to preserve the ecosystems of Haleakala National Park, to protect the Native Hawaiian cultural, and to preserve the area’s scenic character.

Haleakala National Park is located atop Maui’s Haleakala volcano and is home to more threatened and endangered species than any other national park in the United States. Among the park’s endangered species is the Hawaiian state bird, the Nene. The Friends of Haleakala National Park offers an adopt-a-nene program that raises funds to protect the endangered nene goose from a range of threats including invasive predators such as mongooses, feral cats and rats.

How they spend their money: Sorry, no information is available at this time for this organization.

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

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The common kingfisher is one of the many bird species that benefit from the work of the RSPB.Photo © Nigel Dell / Getty Images.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) began in 1889 as an organization that opposed the inhumane use of exotic feathers in the fashion industry, particularly the use of exotic plumes to adorn the women’s hats that were so much in vogue at the time. The RSPB’s rules were straightforward-to discourage the mindless destruction of birds, to promote the protection of birds, and to refrain from wearing feathers of any bird.

Today, the RSPB has over 1 million members with a network of 12,200 volunteers all devoted to the protection of birds. The RSPB protects and restores habitat for birds and other wildlife, conducts recovery projects, researches problems facing bird populations, works with landowners and farmers to protect birds, and manages 200 nature reserves. Each year, the RSPB conducts the Big Garden Birdwatch survey, which is a great way for people in the UK to participate in a nation-wide bird count.

How they spend their money: Sorry, no information is available at this time for this organization.

 Oceana

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Oceana is one of the few organizations that focus their work exclusively on ocean conservation. Photo © Aaron Foster / Getty Images.

 I like to contribute to an organization focused entirely on protecting our world’s oceans. Oceana enables me to do just that. Oceana seeks to preserve the very core of our planet’s health by protecting its oceans. Without healthy oceans, we can scarcely hope for healthy landscapes. Our oceans sustain life on dry land through their role in maintaining the atmosphere we breath, the water we drink, and the food we eat.

Anonther quality I like about Oceana is that they only work on a select handful of campaigns at one time. This better enables them to achieve specific, measurable outcomes. By funneling their efforts in in this way, they stay focused on finding solutions to specific problems.

How they spend their money:

  • 79.3% of expenses go towards conservation projects
  • 14.7% of expenses go towards admininstration
  • 5.9% of expenses go towards fundraising

 Conservation International

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Madagascar is among the regions designated by Conservation International as a biodiversity hotspot. Photo © Jialiang Gao / Getty Images.

 Conservation International employs scientists and policy experts to balance healthy ecosystems with sustainable human use. Conservation International aims to help stabilize global climate, protect fresh water, and ensure human well-being. To achieve their goals they work with indigenous peoples and non-governmental organization. Conservation International’s primary initiatives include climate, fresh water, food, health, culture, and biodiversity.

Of all the significant initiatives Conservation International has achieved, its Biodiversity Hotspots project is for me the most impressive. This project identifies and protects biological hotspots—places that exhibit the richest diversity and most threatened collections of plants and animals on our planet.

How they spend their money:

  • 84.6% of expenses go towards conservation projects
  • 10.2% of expenses go towards admininstration
  • 5.1% of expenses go towards fundraising

Wildlife Conservation Society

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The Wildlife Conservation Society’s tiger protection programs safeguard tigers in countries such as Cambodia, China, India, Russia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Myanmar. Photo © Gary Vestal / Getty Images.

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is another superb group working for the protection of animals and wildlife. The WCS supports zoos and aquariums while promoting environmental education and conservation of wild populations and their habitats. They also offer educational resources and a wide variety of conservation programs. Their efforts are focused on a select group of animals including bears, big cats, elephants, great apes, hoofed mammals, cetaceans, and carnivores. Their conservation projects stretch around the globe and are at work in regions including Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, North America, and throughout the world’s Oceans.

The Wildlife Conservation Society was established in 1895 as the New York Zoological Society. Its mission was, and is, to promote wildlife protection, foster the study of zoology, and create a top-notch zoo. Today not one but five Wildlife Conservation Zoos exist in the State of New York, the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, and the New York Aquarium.

How they spend their money:

  • 84.9% of expenses go towards conservation projects
  • 11.3% of expenses go towards admininstration
  • 3.7% of expenses go towards fundraising

4. Ark it! Grab the threatened critter and stick it in a modern day Noah’s ark!

Some of the groups above will be trying to save species by saving ecosystems. Sometimes that’s not enough. For example, Tasmanian Devil’s were going extinct due to a viral cancer that spread through the native population. Conservation groups removed healthy devils and put them into breeding programs removed from the wild. Now conservationists are hoping the devils finally go extinct in the wild! This is so they can eventually reintroduce the healthy captive devils back into a fresh clean ecosystem with no facial tumours disease.

Another example is the Eden Project.

The Eden Project is a visitor attraction in the United Kingdom, including the world’s largest greenhouse.[1][2] Inside the artificial biomes are plants that are collected from all around the world. The project is located in a reclaimed Kaolinite pit, located 2 kilometers (1.25 mi) from the town of St Blazey and 5 kilometres (3 mi) from the larger town of St Austell, Cornwall.[3]

The complex is dominated by two enclosures consisting of adjoining domes that house plant species from around the world. Each enclosure emulates a natural biome. The domes consist of hundreds of hexagonal and pentagonal, inflated, plastic cells supported by steel frames. The first dome emulates a tropical environment, and the second a Mediterranean environment.

If a species is small enough, such as various frogs and butterflies, we might be able to keep a strong enough gene pool viable in significant populations inside special conservation parks (or is that ‘arks’?) These biodomes seem as good a design as any for some species. While Willie Smits might rebuild a rainforest, he has to have the species and biodiversity with a strong enough gene pool to do so! These domes can be specially temperature controlled for the comfort of the species within. We must protect threatened frogs and insects and other small creatures until we can return them to a safe habitat.

Sadly, I can visualise a time when the only coral reefs will be in enormous tourist  aquariums, and many butterflies and bugs will be in tourist eco-domes, and many of our larger predators (“lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”) will only exist in zoo’s. Unless. Unless we turn this around!

 

5. Sign it! Join an online group and get regular petitions you can sign

Google around for any local environment groups to sign up to their Facebook pageGoogle groups or email lists. Start conversations on your favourite social network or online forum, email list or group, and soon your daily in-box or feed will have a few things you can sign every week. If you can’t find these then the The Petition site, Avaaz.org, etc. Do it! It’s free, and doesn’t take long.  Just don’t leave it at that, or mere online arguments. Seriously, sponsor one of the groups above. Get involved. One day online petitions might make a difference, even though right now they appear less effective than ever.  

Also, you don’t want to become this guy. There are more important things to do.wrong

  

6. Monetise it! Support groups that reinvent local economies to repair local ecologies.

For example, Willie Smits builds a rainforest.  The Samboja Lestari project is inspirational not just because it aims to save Orangutans, but because it does so by rebuilding the local economy via rebuilding the local ecology. Borneo Orangutan Survival foundation bought a dead patch of burnt out rainforest, and repaired it!

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Please watch Willi Smit’s builds a rainforest either on the TED website or below on youtube.

They established clear ownership by the local people, clear economic incentives to pursue  ‘food and fibre’ security, a local culture of interaction and protection of their newly built rainforest, all resulting in the amazing return of local rainfall up 30% due to the rainforest restoration! The fact that the centre of the complex houses a constructed ecosystem for Orangutans is just a fortunate side-effect and badge of pride for the local people who can now live in a sustainable ecosystem that supports them economically as they support it physically.

7. Patrol it with drones!

The Conversation (Jan 2015) article Satellites, mathematics and drones take down poachers in Africa”  shows how technology from modern warfare is creeping chkjr5wf-1422308734into modern conservation.

“The real game changer is our use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones, which we have been flying in Africa since May 2013. We’ve found that drones, combined with other more established technology tools, can greatly reduce poaching – but only in those areas where rangers on the ground are at the ready to use our data….

The good news is that we have proof of concept and proof on the ground that UAVS can make a tremendous difference. The bad news is that the poachers are moving to regions where we are not operating. To really address the challenges of poaching in the region, all the nations in southern Africa should be willing at least to test our system in their most critically endangered areas.

Our solution to the poaching problem lies in the combination of satellite monitoring, great math, properly positioned rangers and UAVS flying precise flight paths. It works.”

You can donate to Air Shepherd that run this program.

8. Repair it with robots?!

This is a more speculative comment, but I am cautiously optimistic that we will gradually see military robots become so advanced and so cheap that we may even use them to  repair ecosystems, at least as far as weeding out plague species.

COTSBot will kill the Crown Of Thorn Starfish Bot! ABC September 2015 says:

Queensland researchers are close to completing work on an autonomous robot that will cruise the Great Barrier Reef and inject the destructive crown-of-thorns starfish with a toxic solution….

The robot has been 10 years in development.

Dr Dunbabin said he had to wait for technology to catch up to the initial idea.

“It’s only in the last year that we’ve been able to really hit it hard and come up with a solution that we think can really make a difference,” he said.

“We had a great vision system 10 years ago but the problem was the stuff you use to actually kill the starfish wasn’t feasible.”

The old method of killing the COTS required up to 10 injections for each starfish, but James Cook University has continued to develop the single-shot technology.

We are already developing the military prototype EATR robot which can weed. Imagine this steam-powered military cart driving through forests eating weeds!

I wonder if one day we will send giant autonomous ships floating around in the polluted oceanic gyres, feeding off the micro-plastic with nano-tentacles and digesting it all into some useful petrochemical products? Who can say? In a world where autonomous robots can nearly feed themselves off jungle waste, almost anything is possible. As long as we have plenty of activists engaged in the strategies above, we can make a place for brainstorming new technologies and solutions. After all, who would have guessed drones would be used to spot poachers? We live in remarkable times.