Endangered Species Affect Our Ecosystems

February 17, 2011

Species on the brink of extinction affect us all more than we may realize. Sure, the pandas are cute, and the rhinos are fun to look at, but is there any more to it than that? Absolutely.

All animal and plant life is part of a complex ecosystem that also includes our lands and our waters. Remove one or more of those parts and you damage the ecosystems, sometimes beyond restoration. These ecosystems provide clean water, breathable air, fertile soils, climate control, food, medicine, energy, building materials, transportation, as well as recreational and spiritual uses. Many groups are working to protect endangered species and their habitats; they are mentioned throughout this post and at the end.

According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service:

415 species are endangered in the US

164 species are threatened in the US

541 species are endangered in other countries

50 species are threatened in other countries

In 1973, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Why should we save endangered species? The introduction recognizes that endangered and threatened wildlife and plants “are of esthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and scientific value to the Nation and its people.” The purpose of the ESA is to “protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend.” It is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Commerce Department’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) , “destructive human activities” have increased the rate of species extinction from 100 to 1000 times the natural rate. WWF lists the following 8 animals as flagship endangered species. Flagship species are used as icons to denote the broader problem. (All info on the 8 taken from wwf.org.)

Tigers

Tigers are one of the most threatened species in the world, with only about 3200 Tigers left in the wild. The biggest threats to these animals are growing human populations, habitat loss, illegal hunting, trade of tiger parts used in medicines.

Adopt a Tiger here. *

Pandas
Although pandas are one of the most popular and famous animals on earth, there are only about 2500 pandas left in the wild. The biggest threats they face are habitat fragmentation and unsustainable development.

Adopt a Panda here. *

Sumatran Rhinoceroses
This smallest of the living rhinoceroses is critically endangered, with only 300 alive in the wilds. The biggest threats to these animals are habitat loss and poaching. The forests in which they live need to be saved.

Adopt a Rhino here. *

Polar Bears
Not endangered as yet, polar bears number between 20,000 to 25,000, perhaps due to the 1973 International Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears and their Habitat. However, culture change and warming trends pose a very real threat to polar bears over the next century.

Adopt a Polar Bear here. *

Whales
Seven of thirteen whale species are endangered or vulnerable. The greatest threats include oil and gas development in feeding grounds, collisions with ships, entanglement in fishing lines, commercial killing, toxic contamination, climate change and habitat vulnerability.

Pygmy Elephants
Smaller than other Asian elephants, pygmy elephants number only about 1600 in the wild. Biggest threats to these elephants are habitat loss and human conflict.

Adopt an Elephant here. *

Marine Turtles
Many marine turtles are endangered and critically close to extinction.
“Having traveled the seas for over 100 million years, sea turtles have outlived almost all of the prehistoric animals with which they once shared the planet. Having survived the extinction of the dinosaurs, marine turtles still inhabit the oceans’ open waters and coastal habitats, feeding on jellyfish and other aquatic plants and animals.”**
Marine turtles can reproduce abundantly, but even under “natural” conditions, few young turtles survive, and it can take decades for turtles to reach maturity. Biggest threats include habitat destruction, egg collection, hunting, entanglement in fishing lines, and climate change.

Adopt a Sea Turtle here. *

Great Apes
This group includes gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees, and are all endangered, some critically so. They are also our closest wild relatives. Serious threats to the great apes include disease, hunting, trade, habitat loss and climate change.

Adopt a Gorilla here. *

 

What You Can Do


Humane Society Campaigns

National Wildlife Refuge System You Can Help

Endangered Species Program How You Can Help

Humane Society International

Humane Society of the US

World Wildlife Fund Act Now

 

*I am a big fan of the World Wildlife Fund, so I’ve included links to their “adopt an endangered species” program, simply because I think it’s a cool and fun idea.

** From wwf.org.

Note:  Pictures do not accurately represent species listed. They’re just cute pictures. And, yes, I went a little nuts with the bears. (www.classroomclipart.com)

 

 

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Issues that Matter: Obese Children, Malnourished Children, By the Numbers

February 5, 2011

More than 25 million children in the U.S. are overweight, but at least 3 million children worldwide died of hunger and malnutrition in 2008.* Obesity is the 2nd leading cause of preventable disease and death, preceded only by smoking.

Experts agree that in the last 30 years, childhood obesity has doubled or even tripled in many large countries such as the United States and Canada. Other countries on this list include Australia, Japan, Germany, Spain and the UK. Some lower and middle income countries, like Brazil, are battling both obesity and malnutrition. Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes.

Adult obesity is also on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), none of the 50 states met the “Healthy People 2010” obesity target of 15 percent. CDC data shows that in 2007-2008, approximately 72.5 million adults in the United States were obese (CDC, unpublished data, 2010). A study from 1987 to 2001 showed a 27 percent increase in medical costs for diseases associated with obesity. Obesity medical costs exceed $147 billion. The CDC also estimates that obese persons have medical costs $1429 higher (2008) than people with normal weight.

On the flip side, Bread for the World estimates that worldwide, 178 million children under 5 have stunted growth, due to malnutrition. “Children who survive early childhood malnutrition suffer irreversible harm—including poor physical growth, compromised immune function, and impaired cognitive ability.” Many of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Central Asia. Bread for the World estimates economic losses in these countries as high as 2-3 percent of the GDP.

Obesity is the result of a calorie intake higher than a calorie output. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) estimates obesity commonly begins at age 5 or 6 and costs society about $100 billion per year. The chance a child will be obese is 50 percent with one obese parent and 80 percent with 2 obese parents. AACAP relates childhood obesity to:

poor eating habits

overeating or binging

lack of exercise

family history of obesity

medical illness

medications

stressful events or life changes

family and peer problems

low self-esteem

depression

Body Mass Index is an indicator of body fat, and may be used to determine overweight and obesity categories. The CDC BMI Calculator, shown here, is for adults over the age of 20. Check with your doctor for overweight and obesity indicators for kids.

BMI For Adults Widget

More statistics from the Clinton Foundation:

The current American generation may be the first in our history to have shorter lives than do their parents.

The average teen eats fast food twice a week.

Only 3 out of 10 of high school seniors report eating green vegetables nearly every day or more.

Almost one in four children does not participate in any free-time physical activity.

A typical American youth spends approximately four to five hours a day watching TV, using the computer or playing video games.

The indirect costs of obesity (such as missed work days and future earnings losses) have been estimated at $56 billion dollars per year.

Children treated for obesity are roughly three times more expensive for the health care system than children of normal weight.

Severely overweight people spend more on health care than smokers.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, this can have both immediate and long-term health risks for children (and adults). Topping the list are risk factors for heart disease such as cholesterol and high blood pressure. Potential health problems are many: bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, social and psychological problems. Obese kids are more likely to become obese adults wither higher risks for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, arthritis and cancer.

AACAP makes the following suggestions to combat this problem.

Ways to manage obesity in children and adolescents include:

* start a weight-management program

* change eating habits (eat slowly, develop a routine)

* plan meals and make better food selections (eat less fatty foods, avoid junk and fast foods)

* control portions and consume less calories

* increase physical activity (especially walking) and have a more active lifestyle

* know what your child eats at school

* eat meals as a family instead of while watching television or at the computer

* do not use food as a reward

* limit snacking

* attend a support group (e.g., Overeaters Anonymous)

*Stats from Clinton Foundation and Bread for the World.


Issues that Matter: Human Trafficking

November 29, 2010

Human trafficking has always bothered me, but until I started researching it, I had no idea how prevalent it is, even in the U.S.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 600,000 to 800,000 individuals are brought across international borders for human trafficking purposes annually. Sewa-aifw.org puts that estimate at 900,000 people, many of them children. That’s almost one million people a year. The regions of the world with the most severe trafficking are Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Africa.

Countries like the U.S. are often “destination countries”, the places to where the victims are brought. According to Sewa-aifw, up to 20,000 victims are brought to the United States annually, many of them young children. The women are usually forced to work in the sex trade or as unpaid, abused domestics. The men are most often forced into migrant farming or factory work, although they occasionally work in the sex trade. The children are used for any or all of those purposes.

Victims are either taken, sold by their families or lured away with false promises of a good job, a better life, a way to provide for their families back home, or a good marriage.

Once the victims are taken, the traffickers use force, threaten to kill the person or the person’s family if the victim doesn’t comply with their orders, or they falsely tell the victim they only have to pay off a certain amount of debt and then will be free. The victims are watched constantly and often kept under lock and key. Their documents are confiscated and they are kept isolated.

Victims are often brought to countries where they don’t speak the language. This encourages isolation and abuse. If they can’t communicate with those around them, how will they get help? Or better yet, how will they know where to go get help?

Sadly, many victims do not realize that they are victims. They may come from a country with a mistrust of government. Or, since they’re being fed and sheltered, they don’t perceive themselves as victims. They may be afraid of the authorities if the traffickers have convinced them they are in debt or otherwise in trouble.

We have our own problems with trafficking, not just as a destination country. Just a week ago, arrests were made in Florida for sex trafficking. In April, nine people in LA were convicted of sex trafficking, after bringing young women in from Guatamala to work as prostitutes. In February, a man in Alaska was arrested for forcing young women to work as prostitutes.

In fiscal year 2009, the FBI launched 167 human trafficking investigations and made 202 arrests. Human trafficking is second only to drug dealing and arms dealing (which are tied for first) as a criminal activity. And the problem is growing.

“It’s sad but true: here in this country, people are being bought, sold, and smuggled like modern-day slaves.” FBI website

The sewa-aifw web site has great information on how to identify victims of human trafficking, how to communicate with potential victims, and victims’ needs and rights.

It tells you how to potentially identify a victim of trafficking. Signs include living with employer, signs of abuse, submissiveness, inability to speak alone, fearfulness, being kept under surveillance.

HHS runs The Campaign to Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking.  Their web site has loads of information on the issue and how they are working to combat it. It also tells you how you can become involved where you live.

If you come across someone you believe to be a victim of this, call 911.

Resources:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) National Human Trafficking Resource Center 1-888-3737-888  Operates 24 hours.

U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Task Force Line 1-888-428-7581  Only operates on weekdays, 9am-5pm EST. Call to report a potential case of human trafficking. This is a direct call to Federal law enforcement.

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 Operates 24 hours. Can make local referrals.


Message Development — Know Your Audiences

October 28, 2010

Outreach strategies abound, especially given all the social media. To be successful in this economy, or any economy, your messages need to be focused on the audiences you are trying to reach and need to illustrate the critical reason for your existence.

Who are your members? Who are your customers? What do they want? What do they need? What will entice them to look your way initially? What will entice them to keep coming back?

Your members are the people who believe in your mission. If you run the Humane Society, your members are pet owners and pet lovers. If you work on civil rights, your members are those people who: a) have been affected by civil rights issues; b) know someone affected by civil rights issues; or c) have a passion for civil rights. These people are your primary audience.

Secondary audiences include funders, the media, partner groups with like-minded organizations, neighbors, officials and vendors. Internal audiences include your board and your staff.

If you’ve developed a relevant mission about which you are passionate, that is the foundation of all your messaging.

I’m a big believer in cutlines, aka slogans. Develop a short one-sentence slogan and include it in all your correspondence and message materials. For example: “Curing polio, one child at a time.” This is a part of branding your organization. When this slogan is on all your materials, your audiences know at one glance what you’re all about. They can also decide quickly if they are interested in reading more or being a part of your organization.

Put yourself in the mindset of your members. Why are they members of your organization? Why do they give you money or attend your functions? What do they care about?

Once you determine those answers, address those needs. Provide information on the things in which your members and potential members are interested. If you’re an environmental group, provide legislative updates and information about sites across the country, tell stories about how you are helping to save the environment, stress how your members are helping in this quest. Give them further resources, whether that’s blogs or links or books or other organizations.

Always include a call to action. Potential members as well as members want to know how they can help. Some people will just give money, and that’s fine. Other people will be interested in actually going out to a site to help with the cleanup, or maybe they can help with an event or passing out flyers or simply spreading the word. The more people feel engaged and a part of the cause, the more they will do.

Set up interactions, if possible. Invite people to your offices or to your events. Encourage participation in your blogs. Provide feedback forms. Try and set up a dialogue. Again, you want people to feel engaged.

Become the main information hub on anything and everything to do with your mission.


Nonprofits: Revisit Your Mission to Revitalize Your Organization

October 4, 2010

Mission Focus at Nonprofits Important for Morale, Success

As I peruse and participate in Linked In groups and surf the blogosphere, I’m noticing the singular aspect of communications queries and tips. What should I put on my website? How can I drive traffic to my website? Should I have a two-fold or three-fold brochure? My response is a question. How do these message distribution channels fit into your overall communications strategy? Do you have a strategy? And if you do, how does your strategy communicate your mission?

                                                What is Your Strategy?

The days of counting newsclips as success are gone (I hope). The days of fuzzy ROI regarding public relations are also going by the wayside. There are countless ways to publish your news and promote your organization. But you need a plan.

Start with your mission or your goals. Why are you in business? What do you do? To what end? You and each and every employee should be able to state the answer to these questions in one short sentence. If that’s not the case, then you have some work to do.        

Most organizations start with well defined goals and a business plan. When your business was new, I’m confident the boss and employees knew exactly what the goals were. There was probably a lot of excitement – and possibly exhaustion from working so hard to get the word out. But as time passes, it’s easy to become complacent and lose sight of your goals.

When is the last time you really looked at your mission – and really read it? It’s important to review your mission at least every couple years to see if: 1) it’s still relevant; and 2) you are following your mission.                          

 Focus on Relevance

Hold a brainstorming session for all staff. Or if you have a large organization, hold a few brainstorming sessions. Encourage everyone to participate. Focus on questions like: Is our mission relevant and current? Does it describe our goals? Does it need to be changed or completely rewritten?

Depending upon the results of these brainstorming sessions, hold follow up meetings. Rewrite your mission, if necessary, and include the staff in the process. Or maybe you don’t need to rewrite your mission. Kudos. Then ask the employees to articulate what the mission means to them.                                                                                                                    

Either way, a focus on your mission will generate a renewed commitment to your organizational goals. It will motivate people by reminding them of why they do what they do, and why your organization is important.

Morale will improve and productivity will improve. This is a vital first step towards developing your messaging and messaging strategies.        

Next post: Know Your Audience


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