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An article in the April 30th Montreal Gazette says that world leaders are not living up to their promise eight years ago to slow the rate of biodiversity loss across the planet.  Meanwhile animal populations are down 31 % since l970, shorebird populations 52%, forests have shrunk 3%, mangrove swamps 19%, seagrass beds 20%, according to a new study published today in Science. While there have been some encouraging developments, the pressure on the earth’s biodiversity continues to mount. Human consumption of the planet’s ecological assets is still rising. 79% of world fish stocks are overexploited, fully exploited, or depleted. [ a propos of this the Atlantic cod, whose schools once numbered in the millions, has just been recommended for listing as an endangered species in Canada. In forty years, even if all fishing in the western Atlantic is stopped right now, it could disappear]. On the cultural diversity front, 22% of the world’s remaining 6,900 are spoken by less than 1000 people and are in danger of disappearing within this century. The latest iteration of the clear disturbing pattern that still falls on too many deaf ears.

As if to bring this home, we have this terrible oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, spewing out 5000 barrels a day and it will be months before a stop can be put to it. Oil spills are among the worst things that we can do to the natural world. My first horrible lesson in the horrible cost of fueling our way of life took place in l971 when there was a huge oil spill above San Francisco. I was hanging out at an open hippie commune in Occidental called Wheeler’s Ranch, and we all drove down to Bolinas and hooked up with a scene headed by Peter Coyote, who later became a movie actor (ET, etc.), and worked through the night cleaning the oil off grebes and other shorebirds  with baby oil and opening their nostrils and eyelids and earholes with q-tips. Many of the birds were in shock and traumatized by being handled died in our hands. Now they’re having prisoners doing this incredibly disheartening, largely futile attempt at damage control.

Apparently British Petroleum was drilling deeper than its permit allowed and to save money did not install the cap that is supposed to automatically seal off leaks when gas builds up underground in the pipes and they exploded, as happened in this case.

The loss of shorebirds and sea turtles and marine mammals has already started and is going to be appalling. Apparently one of the last nesting turtles of the highly endangered Ridley’s sea turtle could be wiped out. Years ago, in the New Yorker’s Talk of the Town section,  I wrote about my then first cousin-in-law Andy Singer finding a ridley while paddling a sea kayak in Long Island Sound. It was a stray that had been carried north by the Gulf Stream and was half dead from the unaccustomed coldness of the water. Sea turtles are among the glories of the creation. One of the most thrilling experiences I have had was watching from the top of a cliff in Trancoso, Bahia, Brazil, 20 or so loggerheads, the largest of the sea turtles, rolling around in the surf, feeding and probably mating. The green turtle is making an impressive recovery in some places, but we can’t lose any of the Chelonidae. They’re too precious.

Maybe there is a little silver lining to this, Paul Krugman suggests in this morning’s New York Times, because now the ongoing devastation of the planet that our provisioners and suppliers and manufacturers are perpetrating and doing their best to minimize and conceal is in everybody’s face and can’t be ignored, and the flagging environmental movement has gotten a shot in the arm. Rush Limbaugh is even accusing the enviros of surreptitiously  causing the spill. But the Drill Baby Drill program, which Obama was caving in to, has unquestionably taken a serious hit.

Small consolation for all the creatures whose lives are going to be lost and the body blow to America’s $30 billion shrimp industry. But oil is an even bigger lifeline for Louisiana than shrimp, so nobody in public office is going to be chewing out the  oil industry or calling for an immediate moratorium and review of what they are doing on their offshore rigs.

We tidebuckas and Obama’s environmental people and the environmental movement in general  have to take advantage of this disaster, make as much political hay as we can, use it to get the message out and keep the pressure on and open all the deaf ears and build the numbers of those who get it to a critical mass so real change can happen. In-depth investigative reporting has to be done on how this could have happened, and those responsible have to be exposed. As I suggested in my Dispatch on the rape of the forests of eastern Tennessee by the paper companies, there should be an international tribunal that prosecutes crimes against the planet, like the one in the Hague that prosecutes crimes against humanity. But the modern mainstream doesn’t two hoots about biodiveristy. The fur trade is on the rebound. Louis Vuitton continues to be the strongest brand, worth something like $17 billion.

The Dispatches has acquired a fantastic new member of its team : Natasha Sniatowsky, a nurse who spent several years in Rwanda and is a deeply committed social activist, the real deal. Tasha and her husband are going to Arkansas next week to see what can be done to rectify a travesty of justice down there and get the West Memphis Three released from their sentences,  one death and two life. She will be filing a Dispatch.

In the coming weeks I will be focusing on the business stuff so we can get this show on the road. Enough of this shillyshallying and lallygaging.

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