Sunday, January 31, 2016 | By EarthShare | No Comments
Save the Black Rhino
Guest post by Joe Baker, Vice President, Editorial and Advocacy for Care2.
The “butterfly effect”—the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings can set in motion a series of events that result in massive change halfway around the world—is an apt way to describe our increasingly global and connected world.
We could also call this the rhino effect. In the United States or China, the imminent disappearance of the African black rhino may not appear to have much impact, but like the wind generated from a butterfly’s wings, losing the black rhino can have an effect on everything from local ecosystems and economies to global politics and markets.
Close to Home
Perhaps the most obvious impact the loss of the black rhino will have is its effect on nature. Functioning ecosystems are carefully balanced such that species keep each other in check. Removing an entire species can dramatically change this calculus.
In the American West, many scientists link the extermination of wolves to a spike in the elk population, their main prey. This has cascading effects: More elk means more pressure on aspen trees and their other food sources. Fewer elk being killed by predators means fewer carcasses for scavenging species. While nature is often too complicated to draw direct links, it’s clear that change begets change, and species and ecosystems that cannot adapt suffer.
These ecosystem changes have a real human cost as well. The majority of black rhinos live in South Africa, Kenya, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Tourism is a significant contributor to the economies of all these countries. In South Africa—the lowest of the four—it accounts for nearly 10 percent. In Namibia on the other end of the spectrum, tourism comprises almost 15 percent of its GDP.
Tourism directly supports nearly 1 million jobs in these four countries. Indirectly, the industry supports double that, including 19 percent of all jobs in Namibia, according to data from the World Travel and Tourism Council.
Large fauna, including the black rhino, are a primary draw for the millions of tourists that visit these countries. Losing these animals could stem the flow of tourists, not only putting existing jobs at risk, but also potentially leaving these workers with less environmentally-friendly job options.
In 2014, the Financial Times asked if Namibia was “Africa’s next big oil frontier” after oil companies began exploring new offshore oil deposits. Without reliable tourism jobs, such industries become more appealing; As does poaching, a dangerous but lucrative way to support one’s family.
Just as the fate of the black rhino affects their local habitat, the rhinos themselves are not insulated from people who may never set foot in Africa.
Rhino horn is a purportedly powerful ingredient in traditional medicine from Malaysia to South Korea. Traditional Chinese medicine credits rhino horns with curing fevers and improving function. International efforts to reduce demand for rhino horn and curb poaching have worked to a degree in China, where the ingredient was removed from the oeuvre of traditional medicine.
Today, some of the largest demand for rhino horns comes from Vietnam, where it was rumored to have cured a politician of cancer in the 2000s. This rumor drove demand so high that in 2013, at $300,000 per horn, rhino horn was literally worth more than its weight in gold. Basic supply and demand tells us that the fewer rhinos there are, the higher the price will go until they’re poached into extinction.
Technically, international trade in rhino horns was banned in 1977 under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species. But the black market for rhino horns has flourished. This has prompted calls to lift the ban and find ways to simply regulate trade instead. In 2012, two large rhino breeders sued the South African government arguing that, since rhino poaching has increased under the country’s moratorium on rhino trade, it should be lifted.
In 2014, South Africa spent an additional $7 million to increase security at its national parks, but poaching continued. President Obama issued an executive order aimed at combatting illegal wildlife trafficking and, in 2015, released its implementation plan. But even before these added duties, U.S. post inspectors already admitted their inability to keep up with the illegal trade. To do so would require more personnel—and a lot more tax dollars to fund it.
We have serious challenges to protect the black rhinos we have left, but we don’t have much time. The International Union for the Conservation Nature’s (IUCN) most recent black rhino count in 2013 found just 5,055 left. Compare that to the astounding 2,400 that were poached in the previous seven years.
The scariest part is that the rate is increasing. IUCN estimated that in 2013 a rhino was killed every 11 hours. That leaves two choices: Either humans commit to serious action to protect black rhinos, or we start preparing for a world with fewer rhinos, fewer tourism jobs, higher demand for rare horns, and many more impacts we can’t even imagine.
To learn what you can do to protect the black rhino and other African wildlife, visit EarthShare member charity African Wildlife Foundation.
Friday, January 29, 2016 | By EarthShare | No Comments
Meet the Campaign Support Center
An operational component of the Finance Department, the Columbus Ohio based Charity Support Center (CSC) provides cost-billed fiscal management services to 21 customers (4 EarthShare affiliated federations, the 7 ES Chapters federations, 5 customer-managed local campaigns, and 5 EarthShare managed regional campaigns). Last fiscal year, the CSC issued 121 payouts of $7.9M to 5,500+ payees. To manage the customers, the CSC employs the Helix Andar software for its 5 databases – a donor relationship centric product that is utilized by more than 300 United Ways.
Paul Bingle is Director of Fiscal Services and is supported fulltime by Donor Choice Analysts Kari Bradley and part-time by Brooke Roman-Hidas – who is also ES Ohio’s (ESOH) Managing Director.
Paul shared that “Our goal is to quietly, professionally, and quickly process the pledges, receipts, payouts, and periodic accounting reporting for our customers. We utilize the best industry-specific tool available and empower our customers with information while allowing them to focus on revenue production rather than revenue management.”
The CSC started with the 2006 campaign year when ESOH originated the former Affiliate Service Center as both an ESOH revenue enhancement project and to advance several goals of the ES Affiliation Agreement (AA) negotiations. In 2011, EarthShare took on the project with its 9 customers when ESOH converted to being a Chapters federation.
In consideration of the future and the past, Paul said “As EarthShare considers shifting away from managing campaigns – the CSC will have additional customer capacity. It would be thrilling to witness the fulfillment of the goal of having all of the EarthShare family workplace financial transactions being processed under one roof, using the same software product. Equally exciting would be leveraging the information rich databases that we have to harness progressive customer management tools that are available within Andar. In reflection of the service center’s existence, we have brought uniformity and efficiency to how 11 federations manage their workplace campaign transactions, helped empower federations to locally manage multi-federation campaign accounts as revenue generators, have offset some of the CSC production costs by participating in the management of regional multi-federation campaigns, and have streamlined financial data information flow across the ES federation network.”
Wednesday, January 27, 2016 | By EarthShare | No Comments
The Human Right to Safe Water in Flint
By Erica Flock
“Don’t worry,” my friend proactively reassured me as he handed me a glass of water. “Our filter gets everything.”
I was visiting with friends over the holidays in Flint, Michigan where the new mayor had just declared a state of emergency due to high levels of lead in the city’s water supply. The announcement thrust the struggling Rust Belt city, into the international spotlight.
While the rest of the world was just learning about the city’s water crisis, the people of Flint had been living with the problem for well over a year. When my friends moved into their home in 2014, they immediately installed an expensive filter for drinking water. Somehow they knew they couldn’t trust the water.
And they were right. Despite the state’s repeated assurances that the water was safe to drink, Flint residents suspected otherwise. Only after independent researchers discovered corroded city pipes and unusually high lead levels in children’s blood; only after advocates and the press began raising their voices, did state officials finally admit that the water was indeed poisoned.
As the second-poorest city in the nation, many Flint residents cannot afford the expensive filter my friends had installed. Significant portions of Flint’s population, many of them children, were exposed to lead, a metal that can cause permanent brain damage and other health problems when ingested.
How could this happen in a state surrounded by the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth? And how could it happen in a country with safe drinking water laws?
When the fateful decision to switch water from Lake Huron to the Flint River was made in 2013, the city government was under the authority of the state’s contentious “Emergency Manager” system. This system allowed state leaders to usurp local authority in cities that were struggling financially.
Switching from lake to river water was expected to save the city $50 million dollars, but no one considered what the engineering or health impacts might be, not even the state and federal agencies that were supposed to monitor those things.
As the truth came out and implicated parties began pointing fingers at one another, EarthShare member Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) stepped in to advocate on behalf of Flint residents. In November they joined the ACLU to announce their intent to sue the city and state governments for failing to protect residents under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
“Changes in leadership and public health proclamations are not enough,” said Anjali Waikar, staff attorney for NRDC's Environmental Justice Program. “Flint residents need answers, accountability, and changes in the way that our nation's safe drinking water laws are implemented in Michigan.”
While Flint stopped drawing from the Flint River in late 2015, the damage is already done: you can’t erase over a year of exposure or corroded infrastructure.
As it turns out, Flint isn’t the only city threatened by lead and other toxins. NRDC’s report What’s on Tap? warned about threats to Americans’ drinking water back in 2003. The report came on the heels of Washington DC’s own lead crisis starting in 2001, affecting hundreds of thousands of residents and leading to a spike in stillbirths.
Marc Edwards, the researcher who discovered lead corrosion in both Washington, DC and Flint, says that this is unlikely to be the last time a city is affected. Crumbling infrastructure and poor oversight by local, state, and federal officials create a toxic environment. Cities around the country use lead pipes to transport drinking water and chemical additives are the only things keeping them from leaching.
The banner hanging from a church near downtown Flint proclaims, “Water is a Human Right.” It’s not only a despairing appeal for this beleaguered city, but for all of us. Our basic rights to clean air and water are under threat even in a prosperous country like the US, and require constant vigilance.
Learn more about Flint’s water crisis from our member organizations:
Unleaded Please, NRDC
Michiganders Call on Feds for Help in Flint Water Crisis, Food & Water Watch
Key Considerations In Flint Water Situation, Clean Water Action