Reduce Toxic Fumes in Rural India

Target: Dr. Harsh Vardhan, India’s Minister for Environment, Forest, & Climate Change

Goal: Reduce air pollution threatening rural populations in India.

Air pollution in India threatens rural citizens’ health, but monitoring and regulations focus on urban areas. With 70% of India’s population living in rural areas, the majority of India remains unprotected from inhaling hazardous air pollutants.

Researchers have modeled concentrations of ozone and particulate matter in the air across India and correlated these to premature mortality. Of the 7.6 million air pollution-related deaths per year worldwide, one million are estimated in India. The majority of these premature deaths are in rural populations from circulatory and respiratory conditions due to low air quality. Although the rural areas lack the industry and high transportation numbers generally associated with significant air pollution, rural areas experience other contributors such as indoor cooking over open flame and rural energy fueled primarily by wood, dung, or biomass. These, in addition to the pollution from factories and increasing use of cars in urban areas, contribute significantly to India’s air pollution, which disproportionately impacts often overlooked rural populations.

Monitoring and regulations associated with tracking and minimizing air pollution often focus on industrial and/or urban areas. However, as is the case in India, rural populations suffer as much if not more from the ill effects of poor air quality. Sign the petition to encourage Indian officials to focus pollution control efforts on their rural populations.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Minister Vardhan,

Industry, increased transportation, and the use of wood, dung, and biomass as fuel in rural areas is polluting India’s air. An estimated one million Indians die prematurely every year due to circulatory or respiratory conditions related to toxic air pollution. Many come from rural areas of India, where 70% of your population is living. Yet most of the resources and research on the effect of air pollution is focused on urban areas. This leaves the majority of your populations vulnerable to the adverse health effects of increased ozone and particulates in the air, taking an average of 3.4 years off the average lifespan of your citizens. Industry and transportation are often targeted in urban areas as the major polluters, but the burning of wood, dung, and biomass as primary fuel sources in rural areas are significant contributors to declining air quality.

Monitoring and research is required to understand and evaluate the health effects of inhaling these toxic pollutants. Education will also help in reducing the significant contributors to air pollution from rural life. Minister Vardhan, please, focus resources on curbing air pollution not just in urban areas but in rural areas, where the majority of India’s population suffers.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: McKay Savage

Ban Commercial Fishing in Australian Marine Park

Target: Josh Frydenberg, Environment Minister of Australia

Goal: Protect endangered hawksbill turtles by keeping marine park closed to fishing.

The critically endangered hawksbill turtle has been spotted migrating towards the Coral Sea marine park in Australia. Unfortunately, the Australian government plans to open the park to commercial fishing very soon, which could easily mean the end of the species. Worse, environment minister Josh Frydenberg is defending this decision.

Commercial fishing is one of the leading causes of endangerment and extinction among aquatic wildlife, due to the animals getting snagged on fishing lines or caught in drift nets. It is also very disruptive and destructive to their habitat and feeding habits; krill and other small fish are caught with lines or in nets, and even seaweed and other plants can be disturbed or uprooted this way. The Coral Sea currently serves as a highway between the hawksbill’s nesting beaches and feeding grounds, but if commercial fishing is legally permitted, both the species’ nesting and feeding will be heavily compromised.

The hawskbill turtle has already been hunted to near extinction for its shell. If commercial fishing is allowed to disrupt their habitat and lifestyle, the species could disappear forever. Sign this petition to demand the Coral Sea marine park be kept free of fishing.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Minister Frydenberg,

Your support of the Australian government’s decision to allow commercial fishing in the Coral Sea marine park is a dangerous one. The Coral Sea currently serves as the highway between the nearly-extinct hawksbill turtles’ nesting beaches and feeding grounds, and the legal allowance of commercial fishing will badly disrupt their habits and daily lives. They will either become snagged on fishing lines or caught in nets.

The hawksbill turtle has already been hunted to near-extinction for their shells, and if their habitat is infringed upon, they will disappear forever. Do not allow commercial fishing in any part of the Coral Sea marine park. You must allow this park to remain a safe space for the hawksbill, along with any other vulnerable aquatic wildlife.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Aquaimages

Stop Killing Cambodia’s Endangered Animals for Meat

Target: Hun Sen, Cambodian Prime Minister

Goal: Stop the illicit trapping of wild game in Cambodia that threatens many endangered species in the area.

Many endangered species in Cambodia are threatened by the population’s demand for bushmeat. This demand has burgeoned into a significant illicit market for commercial hunters and is decimating wildlife populations in the tropical forests of Cambodia.

Bushmeat is wild game (often trapped illegally) from non-domesticated animals in tropical forests. Some poor rural areas use bushmeat for sustenance but more often than not hunters are urban elite who view bushmeat and the hunt as a status symbol. Many consider bushmeat to be a delicacy or to have health benefits over domesticated meat, but often eating bushmeat is a pathway for the transfer of tropical diseases such as Ebola from animals to humans.

Cambodia is a prime location for illegal game trade, which can include many endangered species such as sun bears, hog deer, and the Sunda pangolin which are caught for eating. Other animals such as baby Asian elephants can also become accidentally ensnared in bushmeat traps. Experts estimate that over half of the species illegally trapped are nearing extinction. Many Cambodians are unaware that many of these species are endangered; to those who are aware, the scarcity makes bushmeat even more desirable to obtain.

The demand for bushmeat has decimated populations of many endangered species in Cambodia and there is no end in sight. Crackdowns on individual hunters and the removal of traps has been largely inadequate to curb the trapping of these protected species. More education is needed to change the public’s view on bushmeat and reduce demand. Additional enforcement will also help to limit activities of larger-scale bushmeat trade organizations. Sign the petition for Cambodia to educate its citizens and crack down on illicit bushmeat trade and protect endangered species from extinction.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Prime Minister Hun Sen,

Illegal bushmeat trade in Cambodia has reached unprecedented levels, pushing many endangered species near extinction. Trapping of endangered species for sale as food, especially rare tropical animals, should not be tolerated by the government.

Although some may blame subsistence hunters for the decreasing wildlife populations, the trapping and consumption of bushmeat is seen as a status symbol for elite, who simply don’t care that these animals are critically endangered. They also don’t care when other animals, such as baby Asian elephants, not intended to be trapped become ensnared and die at their hands. This cruel practice needs to end.

Cambodia should educate the public on the ill effects of bushmeat trade, including loss of biodiversity, unintentional trapping of non-game animals, and the potential transfer of tropical diseases to humans. The current enforcement resources are not sufficient to end the illegal bushmeat trade and protect these endangered species. Please, educate your citizens to reduce demand for bushmeat and enforce restrictions on commercial hunting organizations participating in this illicit activity. It is critical to the conservation of your nation’s precious wildlife.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: A. J. T. Johnsingh, WWF-India and NCF

End Illegal Importation of Hazardous Waste

Target: Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prime Minister of Thailand

Goal: Crack down on illegal importation of electronic waste from other countries.

Since the Chinese ban on waste importation went into effect, the surrounding countries, especially Thailand, have been under siege by the illegal importation of hazardous electronic waste. Many companies are now taking advantage of China’s initiative to protect its environment by illegally accepting wastes that no longer have an outlet for disposal. This is putting an extreme strain on Thailand’s resources and threatens the health of the environment and Thailand’s citizens.

Electronic waste, or e-waste, comprises nearly any item with an electric cord or battery and contains metallic components that can be separated out and recycled. The waste processing required to do this also exposes workers to the hazardous components of e-waste, which include lead, cadmium, and mercury. Many workers in waste processing plants reportedly have minimal protections from inhaling significant amounts of toxic fumes. Prolonged exposure to these materials can cause cancer and other serious health conditions.

Thai police recently seized many tons of illegally imported e-waste from facilities that were not permitted to import foreign e-waste. Since this e-waste was allegedly imported using a loophole for secondhand appliances, acceptance and processing is essentially unregulated and threatens Thailand’s environment and citizens. This is especially true for employees of waste processors which handle this illicit material.

Thailand has laws in place to limit movement of e-waste across borders, but these are insufficient and at times unenforced. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has pledged increased inspections throughout the country to discover this hazardous material, but this only helps after the material has entered the country. Additional regulations and enforcement need to be in place to prevent its importation. Sign the petition for the prime minister to implement and enforce broader regulations to protect Thai citizens from exposure to hazardous e-waste.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Prime Minister Chan-ocha,

China’s ban on the importation of waste, particularly electronic waste, has opened the doors for increased illegal importation by waste processors in neighboring countries such as Thailand. This puts a strain not only on law enforcement officials to seek out and prosecute offenders, but on human health and the environment as well. The processing of electronic waste in order to recover the recyclable components also exposes the toxic components of electronic waste such as lead, cadmium, and mercury. These are known to cause serious health conditions, including cancer. It is critical to the protection of Thailand’s citizens that these materials be regulated to prevent adverse health impacts to workers and potential contamination if these toxins are leaked into the environment.

Ratification of the Basel Convention to prevent importation of hazardous materials has been insufficient in limiting these materials from entering the country. It is not enough to increase inspections in order to discover the material after it has been imported. Regulated processing of hazardous e-waste is critical to the protection of human health and the environment. Please, expand and enforce regulation of this dangerous material.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Fairphone

Promote the Conservation of Cuckoo Bees

Target: Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks and the Minister Responsible for the Climate Change Office in Alberta

Goal: Guarantee the continual study of cuckoo bees to ensure biodiversity growth and environmental conservation.

The rare macropis cuckoo bee (Epeloides pilosulus) is charting new territory in western Canada. Recently the endangered species appeared in Alberta for the first time in recorded history. With mainstream news of bees primarily revolving around colony collapse and loss of habitat, scientists say this bee lineage represents a new part of the story.

Part of what makes this non-pollinating bee special is its ¨kleptoparasitic¨ adaptations. Specifically, they install their eggs in nests of other pollinating species. Called ¨social parasites¨ due to their ability to take over hives, they also allude to an area’s biological health. Since bees require plants for sustenance, more cuckoos (originally presumed extinct) signify that enough nutrients are supporting hosts. This tells researchers that honey bee populations may finally be recuperating.

The cuckoo bees’ expanded range  marks a major milestone in environmental studies, one conservationists should work diligently to protect. This migration should be vigilantly monitored to better track environmental progress in Alberta. Depending on where the cuckoo bees end up could help the scientific community better understand how bees are prospering. Let public support guide conservation efforts by signing the petition.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Ms. Phillips,

For the first time ever, the endangered cuckoo bee appeared at Elk Island National Park in Alberta. Even though these solitary specimens are considered parasitic based on how females lay eggs in pollinating bee hives – they’re indicative of an area’s biological health. These bees are completely reliant on their pollinating hosts for survival, who in turn depend on plants. Therefore, when plant species disappear, so do the cuckoo bees.

Seeing their new progressions signifies that fauna is flourishing in the area. Let’s maintain the momentum by investing in further investigations. One way to improve the likelihood of survival would be by planting ¨swamp candle¨ plants in marshy areas. In addition to colony collapse, the development of wetlands is another major threat to cuckoo bees. Yet more of them means improvements are underway and should be continuously monitored. For an insect assumed to be extinct to suddenly reappear is certainly worthy of further research efforts.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: linsepatron

Praise Chile for Nationwide Plastic Bag Ban

Target: Sebastián Piñera, President of Chile

Goal: Congratulate Chile on being the first nation in the Americas to institute a nationwide plastics ban, and ask that it encourage others to do the same.

Chile just became the first country in the Americas to institute a nationwide ban on plastic bags. Chile’s leadership is crucial in beginning a trend of similar legislation all over this part of the world.

Outspoken support of the plastic bag ban by the president resulted in a vote that was near unanimous in Chile’s Congress for passing the legislation, with wide public support as well. The ban was originally focused only on Patagonia, the southernmost tip of Chile, but was broadened to include the entire country. Within the next six months, all major retailers will no longer be allowed to use plastic bags. Smaller businesses will have two years to comply with the ban. Chile’s previous president had already banned the use of plastic bags in many coastal regions.

Plastics pollution, especially single-use plastics, plagues the ocean environment and marine life all over the world. Estimates by Sea Turtle Conservancy reveal that marine mammal deaths from plastics pollution total around 100 million per year. This nearly incomprehensible statistic is just one of the reasons for instituting plastic bag bans around the world, as has already been done by Bangladesh, Rwanda, Kenya, and other nations. Sign the petition to congratulate Chile on their nationwide plastic bag ban as an important step in protecting Chile’s coastline, as well as the ocean in general.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear President Piñera,

Your government’s ban on the use of plastic bags is monumental, both in its protection of the environmental and its importance in beginning this trend in the Americas. The ocean is of vital importance, as are its inhabitants. However, they are plagued by pollution all over the world.

Conservation organizations estimate marine mammal deaths in the millions per year due to plastic pollution, so eliminating Chile’s 3.4 billion plastic bags per year is commendable. I applaud your leadership in reducing the threat of plastics pollution to marine life and ecosystems. I hope you encourage your neighboring countries to do the same.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Andrew Latham

Save the Chinese Giant Salamander From Extinction

Target: Han Changfu, Minister of China’s Ministry of Agriculture

Goal: Preserve dwindling populations of the critically endangered Chinese giant salamander.

One of the world’s most awe-inspiring amphibians – and a cultural icon in the regions it calls home – may soon be no more if immediate action is not taken. In recent months, researchers have discovered a dishearteningly low number of Chinese giant salamanders in China’s wildlands. The animals are quite a sight, with the potential to grow up to six feet lengthwise and up to 150 pounds in weight: the size of a tall human being. These lizard-like wonders also have a cherished place in Chinese lore, as they may have inspired the renowned yin and yang symbols.

Unfortunately, the uniqueness of these animals also makes them an attractive target for poachers and for individuals who value them as an ingredient in Chinese medicine or for exotic food. Other factors such as pollution and subsequent habitat loss have also compounded the plight of these kings among salamanders. Ironically, one of the greatest recent threats rests in the release of commercially farmed salamanders back into the wild. When these released animals breed with the purebred salamanders, it weakens the species as a whole: a species that is called a “living fossil” precisely because its genetic makeup has seen virtually no major alterations in its 150 million-plus year history.

Sign this petition to urge the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture to heighten its efforts at conserving some of history’s most wondrous animals.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Changfu,

The Chinese giant salamander has remained entrenched in Chinese history and culture. You have made admirable efforts at preserving and conserving these living beings by placing them on your endangered species list, holding poachers accountable under the law, and by encouraging the release of these animals from farms.

Despite these efforts, your country’s famous salamanders –  “living fossils” of historical importance to the world as a whole – stand on the brink of extinction. Recent reports reveal a distressingly low percentage of these animals in the environment, with an even lower percentage from the original, millennia-long strain of wild salamanders. The farm release programs may have contributed to this latter problem by, in the words of one researcher, “genetically swamp[ing] out” the original salamanders. These same researchers advocate for a modified captive release program that emphasizes the preservation of the wild salamander’s genetic lineage.

If extinction does claim the Chinese giant salamander, the elimination of such an apex predator from the food chain has the potential for crippling effects that reverberate throughout entire ecosystems. Please take every measure to ensure these amazing natural wonders remain part of your country’s heritage for many more centuries.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: SH Jefferson

Prevent Sale and Expansion of Dangerous Pipeline

Target: Steve Kean, President and CEO of Kinder Morgan

Goal: Do not sell the Trans Mountain Pipeline to the Canadian government, and stop any further expansion of the pipeline, which could have disastrous consequences.

In the face of protests from environmentalists and citizens, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that Canada will purchase the controversial Trans Mountain Pipeline to ensure its expansion. This expansion is opposed by activists and indigenous groups, and it increases dangers relating to spills and the upswing of petroleum tanker traffic. It will also cost the Canadian government billions of dollars.

The purchase is expected to close in August, when Canada will buy the pipeline from its current owner, Kinder Morgan, for $3.5 billion ($4.5 billion in Canadian dollars). The prime minister says that the expansion of the pipeline is “a vital project in the national interest” and that it will create and protect jobs in Alberta and British Columbia. However, as Premier John Horgan of British Columbia says, “Tens of thousands of B.C. jobs depend on pristine coastal and inland waters. Our environment generates millions in economic activity, from tourism to film and fisheries. It does not matter who owns the pipeline. What matters is defending our coast — and our lands, rivers and streams — from the impact of a dilbit [diluted bitumen] spill.” He says that B.C. will continue to search for legal ways of stopping the pipeline expansion; meanwhile, Alberta’s leaders are in favor of it, pitting the two provinces against each other.

In addition to the costs of purchasing and nationalizing this immense energy enterprise, the Canadian government is also expected to spend billions more on the completion of the expansion itself. The sale is still subject to the discretion of Kinder Morgan and its shareholders. The expansion of this pipeline is hazardous to the environment and to the well-being of Canadian citizens and their livelihoods. Sign below to demand that Kinder Morgan stop the sale of the pipeline and its subsequent expansion.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Kean,

As many environmental advocates—as well as indigenous groups and concerned citizens—have argued, the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline is dangerous and must be stopped. The political, economic, and environmental hazards it poses are too costly and must not be ignored.

Your company has the opportunity to make an important, positive impact on the future of our continent. The expansion of this pipeline could cost many people their jobs, divides two Canadian provinces, and will cost their governments billions. Perhaps the biggest threat it poses is to the environment, where the risk of an oil spill could be catastrophic. As Premier John Horgan said, “It does not matter who owns the pipeline. What matters is defending our coast — and our lands, rivers and streams — from the impact of a dilbit [diluted bitumen] spill.” This is true not only of British Columbia, but of our earth as a whole. I urge you not to sell the pipeline, and to protect our future: help ensure that an expansion does not take place.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: William Chen

Stop Senselessly Killing Pregnant Whales

Target: Shinzō Abe, Prime Minister of Japan

Goal: Switch to non-lethal survey methods to prevent the senseless killing of whales.

A report has revealed that during the annual whale hunt in Japan last summer, 120 pregnant whales were killed. In total 333 minke whales were caught and killed during a 12-week period. Of those 333, 128 were female and 122 of them were pregnant.

The numbers of whales killed in Japan last year were recently revealed in a technical report submitted to the International Whaling Commission. Members of the Institute of Cetacean Research, an agency involved with Japan’s fisheries ministry, wrote the report. Conservationist groups have met the numbers with shock.

Alexia Wellbelove of the Humane Society International said in a statement: “It is further demonstration, if needed, of the truly gruesome and unnecessary nature of whaling operations, especially when non-lethal surveys have been shown to be sufficient for scientific needs.”

Sign this petition to urge the Prime Minister of Japan to commit to non-lethal survey methods to prevent the senseless killing of whales.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Prime Minister Abe,

In a recent report, it was made public knowledge that Japan killed 333 minke whales last season. 122 of those killed were pregnant. This senseless killing was rationalized by saying that the whale slaughter was necessary for scientific surveys. However, many nations are conducting surveys on whales without killing the specimen.

I urge you to switch to non-lethal survey methods so that the senseless killing of whales at Japanese hands will come to an end.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Herry Lawford

Reduce Air Pollution Choking Chinese Provinces

Target: Xi Jinping, President of China

Goal: Curb the deadly pollution enveloping industrial areas of China.

Despite attempts to limit emissions from factories, especially the steel industry, air pollution has continued to increase in industrial areas of China. Concentrations of particulate matter are on average more than double the recommended limits for exposure and at times exceed greater than ten times these amounts, leading to serious public health implications.

Reports on emissions from January to April of this year have indicated that even with limitations on manufacturing during winter months, emissions have continued to increase. The World Health Organization’s recommended limit on particulate matter less than 2.5 microns (PM 2.5) is 25 micrograms per cubic meter for 24 hours of exposure; industrial provinces in China are experiencing average levels of 55 to 64 micrograms per cubic meter. Any successful reductions in particulate matter are often counteracted by weather events, such as sandstorms and conditions which promote smog formation. Particulate matter emissions can increase the likelihood of developing lung and heart conditions and exacerbate pre-existing conditions such as asthma, especially in vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly.

Limitations on industries are put in place yet emissions levels continue to rise. Steel production reached its highest level in the past four years and will likely continue, with no end in sight for smog, particulate matter emissions, and the associated adverse health impacts. Only certain pollution levels will trigger reductions in activities, despite these levels already being above those recommended for exposure. Sign the petition to encourage Chinese officials to enact stricter emissions regulations and implement better control technologies, especially for industrial areas suffering the severe health impacts.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear President Xi,

Concentrations of particulate matter were on average more than double the limits for prolonged exposure in the first four months of this year. PM 2.5 concentrations in the air ranged from 55 to 64 micrograms per cubic meter in your industrial provinces compared to 25 micrograms per cubic meter recommended by the WHO based on the health impacts related to this pollution. Weather events such as sandstorms, or conditions which promote smog formation, can increase these levels even higher, even as stricter emissions standards are enacted for industries.

As steel demand and production increases, so too will particulate matter emissions. This will result in adverse health impacts to China’s populations, especially in provinces with significant industry. It is not enough to pledge to reduce pollutant emissions in a graduated manner, especially with the extreme weather events seen in these areas which only exacerbate particulate matter concentrations in the air.

As your industries thrive, your citizens experience increased pollution and its health effects. Even as levels continue to stay above concentrations recommended for exposure, only cases of extreme pollution trigger limitations on industrial production or allow citizens to stay indoors and away from work. Please, don’t allow your population to continue to suffer from increased asthma, respiratory conditions, and heart and lung diseases. Reduce particulate air emissions to the allowable recommended levels for health by requiring stricter pollution controls on factories.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Kentaro IEMOTO