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:
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America Adapts is produced and hosted by climate change adaptation expert Doug Parsons. In each episode, Parson’s talks to scientists, journalists, activist, policymakers and climate heroes about the challenges of adapting to climate change and they discuss approaches that they believe are already working.
The podcast is, as its name suggests, focused on the US and the nation's journey in dealing with climate change, but it's very informative and inspiring for everyone around the world.
Episode tip: #75 in which Doug Parsons attends a town hall meeting with women, LGBTQ+ people, and people of colour about fighting climate change. He goes to Africatown to learn about the relationship between racism and environmental collapse and talks to a protest community that also serves refugees fleeing from climate change-related disasters.
Great episode to hear from people who aren’t visible in mainstream media despite being on the frontlines of the battle against climate change.
Climate Cash is a three-episode long podcast series by the Australian branch of the World Wildlife Foundation. The Foundation’s Conservation Director Dr. Gilly Llewellyn talks to experts from the public and private sectors, community leaders, and government workers about the threats climate change poses to South East Asia and the Pacific region.
They also discuss what Australia can do to reverse the negative consequences of climate collapse.
Climate Conversations is a podcast produced by MIT Climate. MIT Climate is Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s hub for all the scientific work being done on climate change across the university. They describe it as “a place for worldwide discussion and learning”.
With MIT Climate, the institute aims to “to connect questions to answers, research to solutions, and knowledge to action.” If you’d like to know what’s happening from a scientific point of view, Climate Conversations makes climate science accessible and easy to understand even for science n00bz like me.
For concise and informative climate change stories NPR’s Climate Cast is the podcast to listen to. Depending on the day and on the guests, episodes go from five minutes to over an hour, so you’ve always got something to listen to, no matter if you’re just brushing your teeth in the morning or you’re on your long commute to work.
Across the pond, Costing the Earth is a BBC podcast about climate change. In their words, the podcast looks at “man's effect on the environment and how [the environment] reacts”. They cover a diverse range of topics from building golf courses on sand dunes to climate changes' effects on human and animal fertility.
My favourite thing about Costing the Earth is that they challenge widely accepted and popular climate change ‘trends’. In the episode ‘Plasticphobia’ for example, the host Tom Heap talks to experts about whether plastic is as bad as popular discourse makes it seem to be.
A personal favourite, Mothers of Invention celebrates feminists that are taking action against climate breakdown across the world.
Hosted by Ireland first female president Mary Robinson and comic Maeve Higgins, Mothers of Invention is funny, informative and inspiring. In each episode, they talk to badass climate heroes like Kenya’s former environment minister Judy Wakhungu and the amazing eco-feminist author, activist, scientific advisor, food sovereignty advocate and seed saver Vandana Shiva.
If you’re looking for something with a bit more of a personal touch, No Place Like Home is a podcast about personal choices people make in the face of future environmental catastrophe.
Host Ashley Ahearn travels across the US and interviews people about their experiences in fighting climate change. These choices cover a literal lifespan from deciding whether to have children or not to composting your body after death.
And if you don't like any of these podcasts, why not set up a podcast yourself? Find out how with our story about citizen audio journalism.
California is experiencing one of the most destructive wildfire seasons on record.
Among the many different factors that led to it, several experts agree that climate change also played a role. Moreover, a major climate assessment by the US government reports that "projected climate changes suggest that western forests in the United States will be increasingly affected by large and intense fires that will occur more frequently."
In other words, we need to act, and we need to act fast. As an editor, I don't have any scientific expertise to offer regarding possible solutions to the climate breakdown. I can just read as many reliable scientific reports as possible.
However, as a communication professional, I can suggest that we need to find new, more effective ways to communicate what's happening to our planet.
In this regard, I recently came across a 2017 column written for The Guardian by environmentalist writer George Monbiot. There, Monbiot argued that "language is crucial to how we perceive the natural world" and that finding better ways of describing nature and our relationships with it means finding better ways to defend it.
Doing some research, I then found out that the Facebook page Solarpunk Anarchist posted a visual summary of George Monbiot's list of alternative terms.
We decided to make a similar summary ourselves and to create some new visual material to support Monbiot's new vocabulary.
Here's our summary:
And here's some additional images:
If you live in a cold climate, "global warming" might even sound appealing. "Global heating" is a better reminder of the potential, destructive consequences that climate breakdown will trigger.
The term "stock" brings to mind a disposable commodity rather than a living population of animals.
As George Monbiot writes "the term 'extinction' conveys no sense of our role in the extermination, and mixes up this eradication with the natural turnover of species. It’s like calling murder "expiration".
If you want to know more terms of George Monbiot's new environmentalist vocabulary follow us on Instagram ❤️
The UN has reported the shocking statistic that 80 percent of people displaced by natural disasters are women. Surely the weather itself doesn’t discriminate, but climate change is more than just an environmental issue, it's a feminist one.
The odds are not in women's favour
Across the globe, women are generally the primary food, water, and fuel providers for their families and communities. More reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods, and more tied down to their homes than men, women have limited physical and economic mobility during climate-related disasters.
An Oxfam report on the tsunami that devastated millions of lives in 2004 found that male survivors outnumbered women by almost three to one in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and India. Since men are more likely to be able to swim and women lose precious evacuation time looking after children and other relatives, the odds are not in women's favour.
After the first wave of climate disaster, women are hit hardest by secondary impacts. As sources get more and more scarce, the already vulnerable position of women worsens.
Violent incidents against women, such as sexual assault and rape, increase in the wake of natural disasters. After disasters such as droughts, women are exposed to more dangers on the road as they need to walk further for water.
Economic implications of natural disasters are also worse women and girls. Following the Fiji floods in 2012, evidence suggested that girls were taken out of school to care for younger children or to make extra cash through sex work.
After these catastrophes, almost all of the available jobs are in industries such as rebuilding and construction, which are traditionally male-dominated. Thus, whilst men get the chance to rebuild their lives and communities, women struggle to find any stable source of income as their agricultural trade is wiped out unpredictably.
Women experience the consequences of climate change more severely than men, but they are excluded from climate politics and decision-making. The average representation of women in governments and organisations tackling climate change is below 30 percent.
However, the UN has recently recognised in the Paris Agreement that women’s empowerment is critical for effective climate policy and there is a new (overdue) focus on the increased participation of women in government at global, national, and local levels. Women’s voices need to be heard in order to achieve sustainable change. Climate change affects the whole population, we can’t neglect half of it.
These charitable organisations are aware of the problem and working to solve it:
- MicroLoan Foundation provides women in sub-Saharan Africa with the tools and skills they need to help ensure financial stability. Financial independence makes women less vulnerable to the impact of climate change. Out of the 150,000 women they worked with, 97 percent of the women have started saving money.
- International Women's Development Agency (IWDA) promote women's leadership and participation in political, economic, and social life to advance systemic change in gender equality. So far IWDA has helped 848 women assume leadership positions.