This week’s environment news will look at efforts being taken to save the bountiful Donana National Park, one Rwanda’s conservationists efforts to preserve the grey-crowned crane, and how Black Lives Matter demand their voice be heard amidst the climate crisis.
Saving Lands: Donana National Park
As the red sun sets in Donana National Park its’ birds, a kaleidoscope of colors and species, dip and dive encircling it. However, the days of such tranquil views are numbered. For the third time running this wildlife haven is under severe threat. Set in Andalusia, Spain’s southern region, its home to creatures such as the squawking night heron, and the graceful flamingo, and each year without fail, thousands of visitors flood to this natural reserve to gaze at it. Even the less exotic and more iconic British birds, such as the swallow and cuckoo, find precious rest here on their yearly migrations from Africa. The UN titled it a World Heritage Site due to the contributions it’s made towards safe guarding endangered species.
In the past it has suffered harsh blows. In 1998 nearly 2 billion gallons of highly acidic water mixed with waste, contaminated Donana’s waters massacring 25,000 kilos of fish and nearly 2,000 adult birds. It was classified as Spain’s’ worst environmental disaster and took a further £74 million to fix. Yet despite this, in 2014 the Andalucian government decided to reopen the very same mines which caused the 1998 catastrophe. Yet the imminent threat Donana National Park faces today, is rooted in governmental plans to dredge the river. The issue is exacerbated further by the huge quantities of water being taken for agricultural uses, or being polluted upriver by mining companies. This mismanagement of water resources disrupts the natural balance of the park’s ecosystem, the marshes cease to flood, in turn dramatically impacting all species of wildlife that exist there. As it stands the Spanish government has until December 1st to cancel these plans. Petitions are circulating far and wide in a bid to prevent the closure of this international treasure, and we can only pray they come into full affect before time runs out.
Saving Animals: Grey crowned crane
In Rwanda the grey crowned crane is a symbol of longevity and wealth, and such is reflected in its appearance. A graceful white neck dotted with flame-red spots, complete with a royal golden tufted crown could only be described as majestic and magical, by the tourists and locals who marvel at them. Throughout the years the crane has attracted much attention including from the Rwandan elite whom spy the unique crane as the perfect pet, if not illegal. Consequently the crane is restricted to the captivity of a garden, making a poor substitute for the wild it was naturally intended for. Rolex award nominee Olivier Nsengimana has set up a project to save this creature. The first step being to convince the elite to surrender their cranes (a sensitive task in itself), and the second, to establish a breeding and rehabilitation center that will reintroduce these creatures back into the wild. As it stands the project is looking hopeful as many owners have come forward to relinquish their cranes.
However this is only half of the problem. Nsengimana is similarly set on tackling the wider issue of cranes being caught, slaughtered and sold as cheaply as chickens, despite a ban being enforced by the government which prohibits this exact activity. The cranes population has dipped by 80 percent over the past 45 years, causing them to be enlisted as ‘endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2012. However amidst the threat the grey crowned crane faces, there is also the overarching long-standing issue of poverty, and many Rwandas resort to the trading of cranes for their livelihood. Therefore, Nsengimana plans to combat this catch 22 by running national media campaigns to educate people on pursuing livelihoods that do not involve the harming of these animals, especially as only 400 remain in the country. The co-dependent interlinking nature of animals particularly those species that live alongside each other, will benefit from Nsengimana’s program that is set to boost Rwandan biodiversity.
Saving People: Black Lives Matter asks is climate change racist?
6th September saw London City Airport stormed by nine Black Lives Matter activists chained together on the runway refusing to move until their point was acknowledged. Their point being; the climate change crisis is a racist crisis that overlooks the disproportional affect climate change will have on black people. The protest was grassroots, dramatic and nailed home some hard truths.
• The U.K is the biggest contributor to global temperature change and the least vulnerable
• According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) by 2050 there will be two hundred million climate refugees 70% of them being Sub-Saharan Africans
• So far in 2016, 3,176 migrants unable to afford flights have died or disappeared in the Mediterranean waters amidst the refugee crisis, whilst London’s elite continue to fly
Protestors picked their arena well. The average salary of a London City airport passenger is £92,000 whilst 40% of the locals living in the surrounding Newham borough struggle to hit the £20,000 mark. This in itself is a clear cut example of environmental racism. The surrounding black and brown Newham community will feel the brunt of poisonous harmful aircraft fumes, a situation that is only set to worsen given officials plans to expand the London City Airport. Environmental racism will expose black people to 28% more air pollution than their white counterparts. Black Lives Matter encourages us to challenge this reality. To put away our rose-tinted glasses and take a more candid view of the unbalanced world we live in. Most importantly, to create an all-inclusive climate change movement that will fairly take account of all people, especially those more vulnerable to its effects.
By Bex Shorunke - Online Journalism Intern