In a recent study, scientists identified the top 10 most charismatic animals like tigers, lions, elephants, giraffes, leopards, pandas, cheetahs, polar bears, grey wolves, and gorillas. It's a commonly held belief that conservation efforts are directed more towards animals humans find cute and attractive, but it turns out that's not always the case.
Despite the public’s affection, these animals are still at risk of imminent extinction. Could their popularity even be the reason why they’re in trouble? Seeing lions and giraffes in zoos, in the media and as fluffy toys every day means that people don’t realise how their numbers are dwindling in the wild. “Unknowingly, companies using giraffes, cheetahs or polar bears for marketing purposes may be actively contributing to the false perception that these animals are not at risk of extinction, and therefore not in need of conservation,” co-author of the study Franck Courchamp argues. The report suggests that companies popularising these animals could compensate by donating part of their profits to conservation organisations or using their platforms to raise public awareness.
The animals’ virtual presence doesn’t match their presence in nature, and it’s misleading the general public about their endangerment statuses. The study found that the average person sees two to three times more ‘virtual’ lions through cartoons, logos, and brands in a single year than the remaining total population of wild lions living in the whole of West Africa.
Just today, how many of these animals you’ve seen on a box, a screen or even a t-shirt? Do you know anything about their conservation status in the wild? If we don’t start putting money towards environmental preservation, our furry friends will only exist to us via a screen or toy. As cute as those polar bears in Coca-Cola ads are, how many actual polar bears will still be around by next year?
Courchamp, a conservation biologist, says that funding charismatic animals will have the knock-on effect of helping other species as well; besides, "if we’re not able to save the lions," how can we save "the tiny creatures on remote islands that nobody cares about?" Cute and ugly animals alike, conservation efforts need to be a public priority.
To learn what you can do to protect wildlife from extinction check out these organisations:
Uttar Pradesh in India is not a great place to be a woman. Quite the opposite in fact. The northern Indian state has high levels of violence against women, who are often failed by the police and the legal system leaving them waiting a long time for a fair trial and justice.
Tired of the poor justice system, Sampat Pal Devi founded the Gulabi Gang, an organisation that aims to challenge the deeply patriarchal structure of her society.
As a group that now boasts 400,000 women who wear pink saris and carry large sticks to beat offenders, they have not gone unnoticed and are making a mark in Northern India.
"Yes, we fight rapists with lathis [sticks]. If we find the culprit, we thrash him black and blue so he dare not attempt to do wrong to any girl or a woman again."
However, Gulabi Gang isn’t just about beating local abusers. The group’s main focus is on empowering women, promoting equality and challenging stereotypes. This is carried out through several practices including training women in self-defence, persuading families to educate girls and putting an end to child marriage.
The Gulabi Gang also hope to empower women by providing them with resources that'll help them gain economic freedom. They organise events with companies where women can be hired. They currently collaborate with a local business, which employs over 500 women and allows them to earn up to 150 rupees a day.
Considering only 27 percent of Indian women are in the labour force Gulabi Gang's work is quite impressive.
Pal definitely knows what she wants for the women in India and is not afraid to be considered a controversial figure in order to get it, saying:
“Society will only change if we eliminate the inherently subordinate role given to women. This is a revolution that has to come from us. Therefore, besides having established self-help and legal counselling groups to address individual cases, we focus on programmes to achieve their emancipation... If we women don't save ourselves, nobody will”
The Gulabi Gang are really taking women’s rights and empowerment into their own hands and are considered a force to be reckoned with across the globe. Although Sampat Pal Devi’s direct approach might be seen as controversial in some circles, there is no denying she is making an impact.
After graduating from Gaza’s Islamic University with an engineering degree, Majd Mashharawi looked around in her city to see high unemployment rates, war-torn infrastructure and blockades limiting the supply of resources and materials.
In 2016, Mashharawi and her friend Rawan Abddllaht decided to do something about the state their city was in and invented a new form of brick made from rubble and ash in order to, quite literally, rebuild the city from its ashes.
Costing just half the price of traditional bricks, Mashharawi’s replaces sand and aggregate with her new formula called "GreenCake" to produce a lightweight brick from materials that would have otherwise been wasted.
Not only materials needed to produce GreenCake are easy to find and cheap: GreenCake also has a positive environmental impact. The innovative brick uses ash from local restaurants and factories that would have otherwise been dumped into a landfill, posing environmental threats.
Mashharawi and Rawan’s efforts did not go unnoticed and the pair won first place in a local startup incubator, supplying them with funds to create their first 1,000 bricks in 2016.
Mashharawi didn't stop with building Gaza from its ashes but also decided to work on saving it from darkness. She and her team are expanding into renewable energy technologies for people in Gaza. The city only receives three to six hours of electricity a day, which affects it's residents severely in many ways, from the quality of life to education, from socialising to economic growth.
But According to Mashhrawi, "[T]he region has a resource that can be harnessed: an average of 320 days of sunshine a year, making solar energy an ideal source of electricity production."
The SunBox, one of her projects, aims to address this: it is a solar energy technology that generates 1,000 watts of electricity, enough to power four lamps, two laptops, two phones, an internet router and a small refrigerator for a full day.
Mashharawi made it to Fast Company's Most Creative People in Business 2018 list, and rightfully so. She is finding sustainable and realistic solutions to her local communities problems that can be extended to many other places in the world, and she's doing all of this while sticking it to the patriarchy.
Three years from now, you may be able to buy a very special brand of meat in your neighbourhood supermarket. In that, no defenceless animal was raised and slaughtered to produce it.
Yes, thanks to the efforts of some brilliant minds in biotechnology and meat production, cultured meat is finally on its way towards becoming a commercial reality.
Mosa Meat, a Dutch startup, recently announced that it had raised 7.5 million euros to commercialise cultured meat — meat produced from animal cells rather than slaughter — and bring it to the market by 2021. In this initiative, the startup collaborated with Bell Food Group, a Swiss meat producer, and M Ventures, a venture capital firm.
“Replacing traditional meat production with cultured meat would have a huge impact on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, it would free up a large number of resources that are now used for meat production worldwide and will completely disrupt an old-established and currently unsustainable industry,” said Alexander Hoffmann, principal at M Ventures. “We’re incredibly excited to be leading this investment into Mosa Meat, a company at the unique cross-section of food and biotech.”
It’s clear that the global livestock will not be able to sustain the exploding world population for long, which is why the idea of cultured meat could be a lifesaver in the coming decades. Professor Mark Post, a pathfinder in cultured meat production and the co-founder of Mosa Meat, realized this early when he began trying to create the world’s first cultured beef burger, succeeding in 2013.
This marks yet another giant stride in finding sustainable alternatives in terms of food consumption. Here’s hoping that more such brainwaves follow soon.