We must put a price on #Nature

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There can be little doubt that producing enough food without doing irreparable damage to the Earth’s biodiversity and to our health is one of the biggest challenges we face. It is a problem exacerbated by the enormous problems of climate change and rapid global population growth.

As some of you know, for the past three decades I have sought to demonstrate the benefits of an agro-ecological approach through my own efforts as a farmer. So I appreciate only too well from first-hand experience just how difficult it is to make the approach viable and, more to the point, why it is so difficult in economic terms.

The financial odds are heavily stacked against you and the polluter most definitely does not pay! I was therefore tremendously heartened that my plea two years ago in Washington to work out what it really costs us to produce food in different ways struck such a chord with many of you here today.

If I was to identify one of the biggest pieces missing from the jigsaw it would be the principle of the polluter paying for the damage the polluter causes. The damage done to soils and water systems – let alone to the oceans which are out of sight and out of mind – is one of those costs not factored into farming at the moment, and yet it is such a huge cost.

Understandably, the idea of making the polluter pay suggests that costs will go up and profits will be limited, which is a big concern for those involved in large scale, industrial food-producing operations.

There are powerful vested interests at stake in our centralised food systems, but if you consider the sheer scale of the damage done by maintaining that status quo – in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, the depletion of natural capital, public health costs and its impact on the social and cultural fabric of communities -then it quickly becomes clear that we play a dangerous game if we neglect the welfare of the very elements that support food production.

What is more, does the idea of the polluter paying actually result in business suffering? There are plenty of examples in other sectors where it is quite the reverse.

Take the idea of a landfill tax. When a charge has been placed on the dumping of waste it has dramatically changed a society’s approach to recycling – and produced jobs. Or take the deal struck by Norway and Guyana to pay for the preservation of rainforests through funds earned from fossil fuel extraction.

So, I wonder, could it be the same for food and farming? Could the principle of the polluter paying actually inspire innovation that leads to economic benefits and generally propagate the practice of a more responsible approach?

This is just one of the bullets we have to bite. We have to find a way of valuing, in financial terms, the increasing damage done to the Earth’s life-support systems by our over-reliance on intensive, chemical-based, monocultural farming systems. And then we have to look honestly at how producers can enjoy a profit if they switch to a more agro-ecological approach.

I say this because I meet many open-minded farmers and food companies who tell me they would love to take a more ecologically sound approach, but they simply cannot afford to – the numbers just don’t add up.

It is hard, if not impossible, to compete against specialised systems of cropping or intensive livestock production, given the costs of the damage done by non-renewable chemical fertilizers and pest controls are passed onto the environment, human health and to future generations. And often it is perverse subsidy regimes which perpetuate such a situation.

It is the economic invisibility of Nature that is the root problem. The value of the planet’s ecosystems has not been taken into account, fully and consistently, in our decision-making systems; we forget that the ultimate source of all economic capital is natural capital and not the other way round.

This is why I set up my Accounting for Sustainability Project almost ten years ago to help organizations, some of which are here today, account more accurately for natural and social capital.

And this is why I very much hope that the outcome of today’s gathering will be the commissioning of a major study to explore, once and for all, whether it is actually more affordable and profitable in the long term to farm by putting Nature at the heart of the process – that is, if we include the true costs in the bottom line, rather than exclude them.

This is key. Otherwise our capacity to feed the world’s rising population on the back of increasingly weakened ecosystems will lead to more and more conflict and misery on an unimaginable scale, which is not a legacy we can leave to our children and grandchildren.

That is why your discussions today are crucial, and why I can only encourage you to dismiss the feeling that you are swimming against a much greater tide. The ripples your efforts produce from events like today’s do have the capacity to turn that tide. Not only that, but they will!

See on www.theecologist.org

Public Input Sought on New Rules for #Bears in Captivity.

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December 16, 2013

RESTON, Va. – In Virginia and around the country, hundreds of bears in captivity live in small, concrete pits and cages without a hint of their natural habitat. Since they cannot speak for themselves, one of the world’s largest animal welfare groups wants humans to speak up for them. 

Delcianna Winders, director of captive law, PETA Foundation, said the USDA is taking public comment on stronger rules for humane treatment of bears, prompted by a lawsuit by her organization. Under the Animal Welfare Act, she said, bears used for exhibition are supposed to be treated humanely. 

“However, the regulations that are applied are exceedingly general,” she said, “and the USDA has failed to protect bears under these standards.”

PETA’S lawsuit asked for more space, proper nutrition and a place for bears to forage, climb and bathe, among other conditions. Winders said roadside zoos are the biggest culprits for violations. About a year ago, a roadside zoo director in Fairfax County was convicted of animal cruelty and sentenced to a month in jail. 

Scientific research has surfaced over the years showing what bears need, Winders explained. Bears are intelligent and as complex as primates, and can suffer from stress and physiological dysfunction in captivity, she said.

“So, 30 years ago, there may have been an excuse for keeping a bear in a concrete pit, arguably. At this point, there’s absolutely no excuse,” Winders said.

PETA has been working for more than a year to get federal government attention on this issue, and is counting on the public to weigh in, she added.

Public comments are being taken by the USDA until Jan. 27 at www.regulations.gov.

– See more at: http://www.publicnewsservice.org/2013-12-16/animal-welfare/public-input-sought-on-new-rules-for-bears-in-captivity/a36298-1#sthash.P4CWSNBs.dpuf

See on www.publicnewsservice.org

#Charity Sector Must Address Criticisms Following Six Figure Salary Revelations.

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How charitable is the charity sector? It depends who you ask. If you are the executive of one of Britain’s leading foreign aid charities you are likely to give a positive answer, but then you would be a beneficiary of this generosity of spirit. If, however, you are one of thousands of unpaid interns currently working for free for charities across the UK, you might be inclined to disagree.

Earlier this week the Telegraph reported that the number of executives paid more than £100,000 has risen from 19 to 30 at Britain’s 14 leading foreign aid charities, over the past three years. The research also revealed the number of workers earning more than £60,000 increased by 16% between 2010 and 2012. The indignation expressed by some charity bosses in response to criticism at the revelations was telling.

“Charities shouldn’t be ashamed of paying people what they are worth,” fumed Sir Stephen Bubb, Chief Executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo), “It’s essential that the sector attracts skilled and experienced professionals, not keen amateurs.”

Sir Bubb’s point was reiterated by several prominent figures, and it might have some merit were in not for the blatant hypocrisy involved when one considers the sector’s flagrant and widespread exploitation of young talent.

The news about executive pay follows a report on unpaid internships in the third sector, published by the campaign group Intern Aware and Unite the Union in May. The report revealed the disturbing prevalence of unpaid internships within charities, which are often advertised as ‘volunteer opportunities’ to evade paying the national minimum wage.

Calling for an end to unpaid internships, the report claims that over a third of the top 50 charity employers in England and Wales don’t pay their interns. Its findings were corroborated in a government review by the former head of the NSPCC, Dame Mary Marsh, who also criticised the prevalence of charity internships and recommended they be replaced by a new recruitment strategy, similar to Teach First – the Government’s strategy to widen participation in teaching.

In light of these circumstances the six figure salaries earned by some charity bosses appear particularly obscene, as do any attempts to justify them on the grounds that they are necessary in order to attract the best talent. For this argument to have any credibility it would need to be applied across the board – not only to those at the top but also to those starting out on their career path.

Yet the reports on unpaid internships were also met by indignation from some sections of the charity sector. In a blog on the website thirdsector.co.uk entitled ‘Are unpaid interns really a problem?’ former senior charity worker Wally Harbert issued an impassioned argument in favour of the current recruitment model. “…should people be stigmatised for wanting to volunteer?” he asked, adding that “today’s gross inequalities will not be undone by tampering with the system of interns, which will lead the wealthy to obtain privileges in other ways.”

Of course nobody is suggesting that getting rid of unpaid internships is the answer to all of society’s woes – though it might be a start – still less that volunteers should be stigmatised. But while the legal lines between legitimate voluntary roles and unpaid internships may be blurred, many charity interns are clearly victims of exploitation. Often they are given high levels of responsibility, conduct tasks which the organisation relies upon and work on a full time basis. All the while they are told the organisation cannot afford to pay them a wage, an excuse some graduates may now be less willing to accept.

Rather than continue to dismiss legitimate criticisms aimed at their sector, charity leaders must act in collaboration with the Charity Commission – The regulator for charities in England and Wales – to ensure they are appropriately addressed. This would involve implementing some of the recommendations proposed by Dame Marsh in her review, as well as heeding the advice of William Shawcross, the head of the Commission who warned that “disproportionate salaries risk bringing organisations and the wider charitable world into disrepute.”

Failing to act could have grave consequences for a sector whose virtues are in danger of being severely undermined by the elitist structures of some of its largest organisations.

See on www.huffingtonpost.co.uk

Director, Environmental, Health & Safety (Operations) – #SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Careers – Jobs at SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, and Sesame Place.

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Director, Environmental, Health & Safety (Operations)

Requirements and Competencies

• Must have a minimum of 10 years experience in the field of Safety, Environmental, Risk Management or Health Services
• Must have a minimum of 5 years of Safety focused job experience
• Must have a minimum of 7 years of leadership experience
• Demonstrated conflict management skills
• Must be fluent in all federal and state safety regualtions and environmental regulations
• Must have experience in working through risk management. Must have extensive claims experience, including trial preparation, testimony in trial and negotiation
• Must be able to manage multi-discipline and technical staff performance
• Advanced knowledge of safety systems, those used in a theme park environment preferred 
• Experience with wastes, wastewater, hazardous waste transport, dive safety and pyrotechnics is preferred
• Must have excellent written and verbal communication skills
• Must be available to work varying shifts or hours based on business need

Desired Qualifications

• Bachelor’s degree in related field strongly preferred
• Continued education in the EHS field

Primary Responsibilities

• Ensure that all operations are conducted in accordance with all existing federal, state, local, corporate, park and EHS operating policies and procedures; to include: site inspection and interfacing with regulatory personnel and government.
• Oversee the General Liability/Workers Compensation process including daily guest satisfaction, claims and litigation management
• Responsible for the oversight and development of several levels of professional and para-professional staff
• Emergency/Crisis Planning and Business Resumption Initiatives 
• Assist in coordination of park accessibility issues
• Ensures continuous improvement of relevant areas in a rapidly-evolving field
• Manage competing priorities effectively in a complex organization and fast-paced environment
• Make effective decisions independently in high-pressure situations
• Oversee statistical analysis and trending of various critical areas
• Develop/Administer an operating budget recommend, develop and administer capital projects
• Participate in special projects such as: serving on various local, national and international professional committees and maintaining community and regulatory relationships
• Participate in Park Duty manger rotation, requiring development and demonstration of operational competencies
• Participation on internal committees and work groups 

See on careers.seaworldparks.com

Humans AREN’T The Smartest Species?

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Think humans are way smarter than other animals? Not so fast, Einstein!

Researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia argue in an upcoming book,The Dynamic Human, that humans really aren’t much smarter than other creatures — and that some animals may actually be brighter than we are.

“For millennia, all kinds of authorities — from religion to eminent scholars — have been repeating the same idea ad nauseam, that humans are exceptional by virtue that they are the smartest in the animal kingdom,” the book’s co-author Dr. Arthur Saniotis, a visiting research fellow with the university’s School of Medical Sciences, said in a written statement. “However, science tells us that animals can have cognitive faculties that are superior to human beings.”

Not to mention, ongoing research on intelligence and primate brain evolution backs the idea that humans aren’t the cleverest creatures on Earth, co-author Dr. Maciej Henneberg, a professor also at the School of Medical Sciences, told The Huffington Post in an email.

The researchers said the belief in the superiority of that human intelligence can be traced back around 10,000 years to the Agricultural Revolution, when humans began domesticating animals. The idea was reinforced with the advent of organized religion, which emphasized human beings’ superiority over other creatures.

“The belief of human cognitive superiority became entrenched in human philosophy and sciences,” Saniotis said in the statement. “Even Aristotle, probably the most influential of all thinkers, argued that humans were superior to other animals due to our exclusive ability to reason.”

But reasoning, Saniotis and Henneberg argue, is just one form of intelligence.

“The fact that [animals] may not understand us, while we do not understand them, does not mean our ‘intelligences’ are at different levels, they are just of different kinds,” Henneberg said in the statement.

Some animals leave complex scent markings in their environment to communicate. Humans can’t interpret these markings, Henneberg said in the statement, but they “may be as rich in information as the visual world.”

Killer whales share a complex language of their own, and dolphins have individual names — just like we do– based on whistle signals. “This means that dolphins have a concept of ‘self’ and special others,” Henneberg told HuffPost Science.

Elephants, he said, grieve their dead and have excellent memories. Beavers are able todam rivers and build underground homes. Weaver birds produce intricate, multi-story nests. The list goes on.

What do other experts make of their argument? Dr. Gordon Burghardt, professor of psychology and evolutionary biology at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, told The Huffington Post that he generally agrees with the researchers’ assertion. He has no connection with their book.

“Generally the claim is made that with language and now permanent record keeping we have a cumulative culture that allows us to accomplish many things that other animals could not,” Burghardt said. “But that does not mean that individual humans are superior in all abilities to all other species. Just as a gibbon does not need a house, we have evolved in environments where we do not have to capture fish underwater with our bare hands, but brown bears do, and can do so better than us.”

Freyr Titan‘s insight:

Most humans tend to say they are superior to other species but their actions prove otherwise, sad really!

See on www.huffingtonpost.com